East Sussex County Council Petition Scheme
Where to send your petition
There are three ways of submitting a petition to the County Council.
1. By post
Petitions can be sent to:
Democratic Services Manager
East Sussex County Council
St Anne’s Crescent
E-petitions can also be created, signed and submitted online.
3. Presented in person
To the Chairman of the County Council
Petitions can also be presented by a County Councillor to the Chairman of the County Council immediately before a meeting of the council. These meetings take place approximately every 2 months. See meeting dates and times.
Please contact Andy Cottell on 01273 481955 at least 10 working days before the meeting and he will talk you through the process. You can attend with the County Councillor at the presentation of your petition, or they can do it on your behalf should you be unable to make it on the day.
Guidance for petitions
Petitions submitted to the council must include:
- a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition. It should state what action the petitioners wish the council to take
- the name and address and signature of any person supporting the petition.
- So that we can let you know how we can respond to your petition, it should be accompanied by contact details, including an address, for the petition organiser. This is the person we will contact to explain how we will respond to the petition. If the petition does not identify a petition organiser, we will contact the first three signatories to the petition to agree who should act as the petition organiser.
Whilst we welcome your views there are some circumstances where a petition may be rejected. These are if it is received within six months of another petition having been considered on the same or a very similar matter or if the petitions is vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate.
In the period immediately before an election or referendum we may need to deal with your petition differently – if this is the case we will explain the reasons and discuss the revised timescale which will apply.
If we can’t deal with your petition for any reason, we will write to you to explain why.
What will the Council do when it receives my petition?
An acknowledgement will be sent to the petition organiser within 10 working days of receiving the petition. It will let them know what we plan to do with the petition and when they can expect to hear from us again.
How will the Council respond to petitions?
If we can do what your petition asks for immediately, we will acknowledge that we have received your petition and tell you that we have taken the action requested and the petition will be closed.
Otherwise our response to a petition will depend on what a petition asks for and how many people have signed it. This could include one or more of the following:
- taking the action requested in the petition
- considering the petition at a council meeting
- holding an inquiry into the matter
- undertaking research into the matter
- holding a public meeting
- holding a consultation
- holding a meeting with petitioners
- referring the petition for consideration by the council’s appropriate overview and scrutiny committee *
- calling a referendum
- writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition
* Overview and scrutiny committees are committees of councillors who are responsible for scrutinising the work of the council – in other words, the overview and scrutiny committee has the power to hold the Council’s decision makers to account.
In addition to these steps, the Council will consider all the specific actions it can potentially take on the issues highlighted in a petition.
If your petition is about something over which the Council has no direct control (for example the local railway or hospital) we will consider making representations on behalf of the community to the relevant body. The Council works with a large number of local partners and, where possible, will work with these partners to respond to your petition. If we are not able to do this for any reason (for example if what the petition calls for conflicts with Council policy), then we will set out the reasons for this to you. You can find more information on the services for which the council is responsible on the Council’s website.
If your petition is about something that a different council is responsible for we consider what the best method is for responding to it. This might consist of simply forwarding the petition to the other council, but could involve other steps. In any event we will always notify you of the action we have taken.
Petitions presented to the Chairman of the Council
The Chairman will report to the County Council details of the petitions which have been presented to him/her and these will be recorded in the minutes. If appropriate, the Chairman will ask the Cabinet or relevant Cabinet member or, the relevant Scrutiny Committee to consider the petition.
Full Council debates
If a petition has more than 5,000 signatures it will be debated by the full council, unless it is a petition asking for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting. This means that the issue raised in the petition will be discussed at a meeting which all councillors can attend.
The Council will try to consider the petition at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will then take place at the following meeting. The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present the petition at the meeting and the petition will then be discussed by councillors for a maximum of 15 minutes. The Council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. It may decide to take the action the petition requests, not to take the action requested for reasons put forward in the debate, or to commission further investigation into the matter, for example by a relevant committee. Where the issue is one on which the Council’s Cabinet is required to make the final decision, the Council will decide whether to make recommendations to inform that decision. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of this decision. This confirmation will also be published on our website.
If the petition applies to a planning or licensing application, is a statutory petition (for example requesting a referendum on having an elected mayor), or on a matter where there is already an existing right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates, other procedures apply.
If the petition has enough signatures to trigger a council debate, or a senior officer giving evidence, then the acknowledgment will confirm this and tell you when and where the meeting will take place. If the petition needs more investigation, we will tell you the steps we plan to take.
Your petition may ask for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting about something for which the officer is responsible as part of their job. For example, your petition may ask a senior council officer to explain progress on an issue, or to explain the advice given to elected members to enable them to make a particular decision. If such a petition contains at least 2,500 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the council’s appropriate overview and scrutiny committee. A list of the senior staff that can be called to give evidence is attached at appendix 1.
You should be aware that the overview and scrutiny committee may decide that it would be more appropriate for another officer to give evidence instead of any officer named in the petition – for instance if the named officer has changed jobs. The committee may also decide to call the relevant councillor to attend the meeting. Committee members will ask the questions at this meeting, but you will be able to suggest questions to the chairman of the committee by contacting Claire Lee on 01273 335517 or by email to Claire Lee at least three working days before the meeting. The Chairman of the Committee will have total discretion on the appropriateness of any questions submitted which will also be supplied in advance of the meeting to the officer being called to give evidence.
The Council welcomes e-petitions which are created and submitted online. E-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions. This is a shared site run in partnership with Eastbourne and Hastings Borough Councils and Lewes and Rother District Councils.
The petition organiser will need to provide us with their name, postal address and email address. You will also need to decide how long you would like your petition to be open for signatures. When you create an e-petition, it may take up to 5 working days before it is published on the e-petition website. This is because we have to check that the content of your petition is suitable before it is made available for signature. If we feel we cannot publish your petition for some reason, we will contact you within this time to explain the reasons. You will be able to change and resubmit your petition if you wish.
If you do not do this within 10 working days, a summary of the petition and the reason why it has not been accepted will be published under the ‘rejected petitions’ section of the website.
When an e-petition has closed for signature, the organiser will be sent an automatic email to confirm whether to submit the e-petition to the Council. In the same way as a paper petition, you will receive an acknowledgement within 10 working days. If you would like to present your e-petition to a meeting of the Council, please contact Democratic Services on 01273 481955 or by email to Petitions Team within 10 working days of receipt of the acknowledgement.
A petition acknowledgement and response will be emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information. The acknowledgement and response will also be published on this website.
How do I sign an e-petition?
You can see all the e-petitions currently available for signature on the shared website. You may also see those that have been submitted to the partner authorities, but you will be unable to sign them, unless you live study or work and can provide a valid post code and email address for that authority.
When you sign an e-petition you will be asked to provide your name, postcode and a valid email address. When you have submitted this information you will be sent an email to the email address you have provided. This email will include a link which you must click on in order to confirm the email address is valid. Once this step is complete your ‘signature’ will be added to the petition. People visiting the e-petition will be able to see your name in the list of those who have signed it but your contact details will not be visible.
What can I do if I feel my petition has not been dealt with properly?
If you feel that we have not dealt with your petition properly, the petition organiser has the right to request that the Council’s appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee review the steps that the Council has taken in response to your petition. It is helpful to everyone, and can improve the prospects for a review if the petition organiser gives a short explanation of the reasons why the Council’s response is not considered to be adequate.
The Committee will endeavour to consider your request at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will take place at the following meeting. Should the Committee determine that your petition has not been dealt with adequately, it may use any of its powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, making recommendations to the Council’s Cabinet or relevant Cabinet Member and arranging for the matter to be considered at a meeting of the full Council. Once the appeal has been considered the petition organiser will be informed of the results within 5 working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.