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Petitions Terms and Conditions

We welcome petitions and we recognise that petitions are one way in which people can let us know their concerns.

We will treat any submission as a petition if it is identified as such, or if it seems to us that it is intended as a petition.

We can be petitioned about services that the County Council has a direct responsibility to provide, or about issues within Norfolk which we can influence in some way. A petition can either ask us to take action on something, or to cease any action that we are already taking, or proposing to take. We can be petitioned about our services, our policies or a decision made by either a County Councillor or a council officer.

Petitioners may freely disagree with us or call for changes of policy.

We will not attempt to exclude critical views and decisions to accept or reject will not be made on a party political basis.

If your petition is about something over which we have no direct control, we will consider making representations on behalf of the community to the relevant body concerned, or if involves one of our business partners, we will work with them wherever possible to provide a joint response. If we are not able to do this for any reason; for example, if to do so would conflict with Council policy, then we will provide the petition organiser with the relevant explanation.

For some issues, such as planning and licensing decisions, or council tax banding and non-domestic rates, there is already an established way for communities to have their say, so this is not included in our petitions scheme. For example, we cannot accept a petition about an individual planning application, but you can petition us if you feel that we are not delivering the service for planning applications in an effective way.

If you are unsure whether your issue is something that you can petition us about, we will be happy to advise you. It is also recommended that you check the website to see anybody has already submitted a petition on the same subject. Early discussion with us may also help to establish to which agency your petition should be directed if it concerns a matter which is not the responsibility of the County Council. It may also help resolve your concerns without any need for a petition at all.

You can submit a paper petition or an electronic one, using on our online petition system. If you are submitting a paper petition, you will need to complete a petition submission form, which requires you to provide your contact details and to confirm the number of signatories.

If you would like to present your petition at a Committee meeting, or would like someone else to, then please contact the Business Support Unit at least 10 working days before the meeting (01603 222378 or email councillorsupport@norfolk.gov.uk) who will pass your request to the relevant Chairman for consideration.

We can also accept petitions emailed to us, or created with other petitions software. When petitions have been created with other petitions software, once the petition is closed, the petitioner must download and print the signatures and submit them to us in the same way as a paper petition. The name, postal address and email address of each signatory should be included so that we can establish if the signature is valid or not.

We will not accept petitions which we consider to be vexatious, abusive, solely intended for humorous purposes, or otherwise inappropriate.

Submitting a petition

All petitions should meet some basic criteria:

  • A title or subject of the petition
  • A short statement saying what the petition is about and it must state the action you wish the council to take
  • The name of the person submitting the petition (known as the petition organiser)
  • The contact address of the petition organiser - we will use this address for any communications concerning the petition
  • The name and an address for any person signing the petition. An online petition may use the Council's online petition tool and each signatory must supply an email address in addition to a postal address. We also accept petitions emailed to us or created using other petitions software, but only if the names, addresses and email addresses of people who have signed the petition are attached
  • The start and end dates for collecting signatures to the petition must also be specified in advance for online petitions, and the duration of the petition period should not exceed six calendar months, although this period can be extended if there is a change to the circumstances relating to the subject of the petition

We will not deal with petitions that:

  • Include a matter which in our opinion is vexatious, abusive or contains otherwise inappropriate comments e.g. containing swearing or other insults or anything that is false or potentially defamatory
  • Do not comply with data protection, libel, equalities and anti-discrimination legislation
  • Concern employment matters for County Council staff

We reserve the right not to take action on:

  • Party political material. Note, this does not mean you can’t petition on controversial issues. For example, this party political petition would not be permitted: "We petition the Leader of the Council to change his party's policy on education” but this non-party political version would be: "We petition the Leader of the Council to change the Council’s policy on education"
  • Information which may be protected by an injunction or court order (for example, the identities of children in custody disputes)
  • Material which is potentially confidential, commercially sensitive, or which may cause personal distress or loss
  • Any commercial endorsement, promotion of any product, service or publication
  • The names of individual officials of public bodies, unless they are part of the senior management of those organisations;
  • The names of family members of elected representatives or officials of public bodies
  • The names of individuals, or information where they may be identified, in relation to criminal accusations
  • Language which is intemperate, or provocative. This is language to which people reading it could reasonably take offence because we believe it is possible to petition for anything politely.
  • Petitions that are similar to and / or overlap with an existing petition or petitions
  • Statements that don't actually request any action
  • Wording that is impossible to understand
  • Statements that amount to advertisements
  • Petitions which are solely intended to be humorous
  • Issues for which a petition is not the appropriate channel (for example, correspondence about a personal issue)
  • Freedom of Information or Environmental Information requests. This is not the right channel for FOI requests; see more information about the FOI procedure
  • During politically sensitive periods, such as just before an election, we have to be extra careful to ensure that all political parties enjoy a level playing field. At such times, if your petition contains politically controversial material we may decide not to accept it or defer consideration of it until after the election. If this is the case, we will explain the reasons and the revised timescale which will apply

How we will respond

  • At the petition’s closing date, if it has not received a minimum of 20 signatures of people who live, work or study in Norfolk, the Council reserves the right not to respond to it in accordance with this petition scheme
  • If your petition has received more than 20 signatures, we will provide the petition organiser with a written response that details what action we will be taking on the petition, if any, and the reasons behind this decision
  • If the issues your petition has raised need further investigation, then we will outline the steps that we plan to take to do this
  • If the petition has received more than 4,500 signatures, it will be debated by the Full Council if that is the petition organiser’s wish. This means that the issue will be discussed at a meeting which all Councillors can attend, and can also be viewed by members of the public. The Council will endeavour to consider the petition at the meeting following the petition’s completion, but on some occasions this may not be possible and it will then be considered at the following meeting. The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present the petition to the meeting, which will then be discussed by Councillors for a maximum of 15 minutes. We will then decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. A written confirmation of this response will then be sent to the petition organiser
  • All responses will be published on our website, as it is important to us to keep the public informed how we are responding to their concerns and suggestions

If the petition organiser is dissatisfied with the Council’s response:

  • The petition organiser has the right to request that the appropriate Council committee reviews the steps that were taken in response to their petition. It is advised that the petition organiser provides a short explanation of the reasons why they feel that the Council’s response has been inadequate
  • Once the review has been conducted, the petition organiser will be informed of the result within five working days and the results published on the Council’s website
  • If the petition organiser is still dissatisfied, they may make a complaint, using the Council’s official complaints process
  • The petition organiser may also contact the Local Government Ombudsman
  • However, any complaint can only be based on procedural grounds, rather than the content of the Council’s response

The personal data of petition signatories

  • The details provided by the petition signatories when signing the petition (i.e. their names, addresses, email addresses) are categorised as ‘personal data’ and are subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018
  • Information on how the Council collects, uses and retains personal data is detailed in the Norfolk County Council general privacy notice
  • In the case of personal data forwarded to the Council for the purposes of submitting a petition, the data is retained for not more than 30 working days after the petition has been resolved, i.e. when the response has been published and sent to the petition organiser. This complies with the GDPR, as the Council has no valid business reason to retain this data for a longer period
  • The electronic signatures displayed on the online system will therefore be deleted when this period has expired and paper petitions will be destroyed via the Council’s procedure for the disposal of confidential waste
  • The basic information concerning the petition details, number of signatures and the Council response will remain as a permanent record on the website

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