Asking questions and presenting petitions at council meetings
At each meeting of full Council there is an opportunity for any member of the public who is a resident in or a registered local government elector of Hertfordshire to put questions to the Leader of the Council or an Executive Member about any matter over which the Council has power, or which directly affects the county. For details of forthcoming meetings follow the link called County Council Meetings and select 'County Council'.
A member of the public who wishes to ask a question must provide it in writing at least 10 clear days before the meeting, stating to whom the question is to be put. This should be addressed to Kathryn Pettitt, Chief Legal Officer, County Hall, Pegs Lane, Hertford, SG13 8DE, or by email to email@example.com,
Questions are answered orally at the meeting in the order in which they are received. At the end of each reply, the questioner may put one supplementary question to the person to whom the original question was put; who may reply orally or may undertake to reply in writing within 7 days. There can be no other debate or discussion of the question at the meeting.
The period of time allocated to questions cannot exceed 30 minutes; any questions remaining after that period has elapsed are answered in writing within 7 days.
Answers given orally at the meeting and those given in writing after the meeting are included in the minutes.
Members of the public can submit petitions to the council as set out in this scheme. The first part of this scheme sets out general provisions relating to petitions and includes the provisions required by the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 relating to petitions that can be debated at full council and those that will be considered by Overview & Scrutiny Committee. The second part of this scheme sets out the provisions which the council has had for sometime relating to the submission of petitions to full council and other meetings of members.
All petitions sent or presented to the council will receive an acknowledgement from the council within 10 working days of receipt. This acknowledgement will set out what we plan to do with the petition. We will treat something as a petition if it is being identified as being a petition, or if it seems to us that it is intended to be a petition.
You can create and sign an e-petition using the link called 'Consultation and e-petition finder' under Also on Hertsdirect.org.
Paper petitions can be sent to any Chief Officer of the County Council.
If, however, you wish to:
• submit a petition requiring a full council debate; or
• submit a petition requiring an officer to give evidence before overview and scrutiny
• present a petition to full county council (with no debate); or
• present a petition to a Cabinet Panel or to the Health Scrutiny Committee or
Development Control Committee
then you should send your petition to the Chief Legal Officer, County Hall, Hertford, SG13 8DE.
Please note that in order to be able to submit a petition to one of the meetings mentioned above the relevant requirements set out in this scheme must be met.
What are the guidelines for submitting a petition?
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
Petitions should be accompanied by contact details, including an address, for the petition organiser ('Petitioner Organiser'). This is the person we will contact to explain how we will deal with the petition. If the petition does not identify a Petition Organiser, we will contact the first named signatory on the petition and deal with them as the Petition Organiser.
Petitions requiring a debate at full council or an officer to give evidence before Overview & Scrutiny Committee can be signed by anyone who lives, works or studies in Hertfordshire. Other petitions should be signed by residents or business tax payers of Hertfordshire.
Petitions which are considered to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted. 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 a petition does not follow the guidelines set out above, the council may decide not to do anything further with it. In that case, we will write to you to explain the reasons.
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.
If we can do what your petition asks for, the acknowledgement may confirm that we have taken the action requested and the petition will be closed. If the petition has enough signatures to trigger a council debate, or a senior officer giving evidence at a meeting of Overview & Scrutiny Committee then the acknowledgement will confirm this and tell you when and where the meeting will take place.
If the petition applies to a planning or is a statutory petition or on a matter where there is already an existing right of appeal other procedures apply.
We will not take action on any petition which we consider to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate and will explain the reasons for this in our acknowledgement of the petition.
How will the Council respond to petitions?
Our response to a petition will depend on what a petition asks for and how many people have signed it, but may 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 overview and scrutiny
• writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition
• presentation of the petition at a council meeting, meeting of a Cabinet Panel or Health
• referring to officers for consideration and report to the local member and Group
If your petition is about something that a different council is responsible for we will give consideration to 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.
Full council debates
If a petition contains more than 10,000 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 endeavour 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. No more than two petitions requiring full council debate will be considered at any one meeting of the council.
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, unless the chairman of the County Council determines otherwise. The council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. They may decide to take the action the petition requests or not to take the action requested for reasons put forward in the debate. Where the issue is one on which the council executive are 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.
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..
If your petition contains at least 10,000 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the council's overview and scrutiny committee. The senior staff that can be called to give evidence are:
|Chief Executive||John Wood|
|Director Safeguarding and Specialist Services||Jenny Coles|
|Director Education and Early Intervention Services||Justin Donovan|
|Director Community Protection||Roy Wilsher|
|Director Environment & Commercial Services||John Wood|
|Director Health and Community Services||Sarah Pickup|
|Director Resources & Performance||Mike Parsons|
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 the Head of Scrutiny at least ten working days before the meeting. These questions will be provided to the chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, who will decide whether they are appropriate, and to the officer concerned, in advance of the meeting.
What can I do if I feel my petition has not been dealt with properly?
If your petition was considered at a full council debate and you are not satisfied with the steps proposed to be taken the petition organiser has the right to request that the council's overview and scrutiny committee to review the steps that the council has taken in response to your petition. The Petiton Organiser should inform the Chief Legal officer of their intention to appeal within 20 working days of being notified of the council of its decision on the 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 Overview & Scrutiny 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 we have not dealt with your petition adequately, it may use any powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, making recommendations to the council executive 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.
The provisions set out below are those relating to petitions which the County Council has had for sometime and which are available to members of the public in addition to those mentioned above.
Petitions containing 100 or more signatures
Any member of the public who is a resident in or a registered local government elector of Hertfordshire may present to a meeting of full Council a petition relating to a matter with which the Council is concerned, containing 100 or more signatures of residents or business ratepayers of Hertfordshire.
Notification of intent to present a petition must be given in writing at least 5 clear days before the meeting where an item relating to the subject matter of the petition does not appear on the agenda for a meeting and at least 3 clear days before where the item is the subject of a report. This should be addressed to the Chief Legal Officer as set out above.
The person named in the notification may then address the Council for no more than three minutes on the subject of the petition, but shall not have the right to speak further.
No more than 3 petitions may be presented per meeting, and petitions on the same subject may be amalgamated.
If the subject matter of the petition is not the subject of a report on the agenda of the meeting of the Council, the petition will be referred (at the discretion of the Chairman) to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to the appropriate Cabinet Panel, or to officers for consideration and report to the local member and Group Spokesman.
A similar right exist for members of the public to present petitions to Cabinet Panels and to the Health Scrutiny Committee concerning matters within the remit of those bodies. The same rules and deadlines apply as for Council meetings.