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.
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.
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 committee; or
- 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.
Or petitions can be created, signed and submitted online by clicking here.
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. (This must relate to something which is the responsibility of the authority, or over which the authority has some influence. Where a petition relates to a matter which is within the responsibility of another public authority, we will ask the petition organiser whether s/he would like us to redirect the petition to that other authority. Where a petition relates to a matter over which the authority has no responsibility or influence, we will return the petition to the petition organiser with an explanation for that decision.)
- 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 Executive Member 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 an Executive member 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.
If the petition applies to a highways matter it may be considered under the additional arrangements operated by the Council's highways service.
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 committee
- 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 Scrutiny Committee
- referring to officers for consideration and report to the local member and Group Spokesperson
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 an Executive Member 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.
Executive Member evidence
Your petition may ask for an Executive Member to give evidence at a public meeting about something for which the Executive Member is responsible as part of their Portfolio.
If your petition contains at least 10,000 signatures, the Executive Member will give evidence at a public meeting of the council's overview and scrutiny committee. The Executive Member that can be called to give evidence are specified in Annex 2 to the Constitution.
You should be aware that the overview and scrutiny committee may decide that it would be more appropriate for another Executive Member to give evidence instead of the Executive Member named in the petition. The committee may also decide to call the relevant officer 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 Executive Member concerned, in advance of the meeting.
In addition to paper petitions the County Council welcomes e-petitions which are created, signed and submitted through our website https://consult.hertsdirect.org E-petitions must follow the same guidelines as paper petitions.
The person who raises the e-petition will need to provide us with their name, postal address, post code and email address. You will also need to decide how long you would like your petition to be open for signatures. We recommend allowing petitions to run for six months, but you can choose a shorter or longer timeframe, up to a maximum of 12 months. The County Council will then organise for the petition to be published on-line.
When you create an e-petition, it may take five working days before it is published online. 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. A summary of the petition and the reason why it has not been accepted will also be published under the 'rejected petitions' section of the website.
When an e-petition has closed for signature, it will be submitted to the County Council. If you would like to present your e-petition to a meeting of the Council, please contact us to seek advice.
The response to the petition which is published on the website is automatically emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information.
Any paper signatures that are collected can also be added to an e-petition. Please forward these to the Chief Legal Officer, County Hall, Hertford, SG13 8DE. In doing so, please make it clear that you would like to link these signatures to the relevant e-petition.
How do I 'sign' an e-petition?
You can see all the e-petitions currently available for signature here:
When you sign an e-petition you will be asked to provide your name, your postal address and your postcode. People visiting the e-petition will be able to see your name and the city or town in which you live in the list of those who have signed it but the remainder of your details will not be publicly visible. You will also have the opportunity to sign up for e-mail updates on the progress of any petition that you sign.
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 Petition 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.