Petition the council
Last Updated: 4 September 2023
The petitions process allows members of the public to have direct influence on the political process and to raise concerns that are important to them. A petition is defined as a communication in writing or using an electronic facility which is signed by the appropriate number of qualifying persons.
Types of petitions
Essentially there are three types of petitions:
- Ordinary petitions: these must be signed by at least 30 people but we will use our discretion where there are fewer than 30 signatories in cases where there is clear local support for action (for example where all the residents of an isolated community have petitioned for action on an issue of local concern)
- Petitions requiring debate: petitions which contain 1,000 signatures or more will be debated by the Full Council
- Petitions to hold a senior council officer to account: petitions which call for evidence from a senior council officer and have at least 500 signatures will trigger that response
Issues that can be the subject of a petition
You can submit petitions on the following:
- issues relating to our responsibilities
- issues which affect the district of South Lakeland or communities in the area, as long as we are in a position to exercise some degree of influence
- anything relating to an improvement in the economic, social or environmental well-being of the district to which any of our partners could contribute
We will respond to all the petitions we receive and will be as flexible as we can when handling your petition so that it is considered quickly and in the most appropriate way.
Before submitting a petition you should first check with your local councillor or with us to see if we are already acting on your concerns and that we are the most appropriate body to receive your petition. Sometimes your petition may be more appropriate for another public body such as the county council.
All petitions sent or presented to us will receive an acknowledgement within ten working days of receipt. This acknowledgement will set out what we plan to do with the petition.
Paper petitions can be sent to the Committee Services Team.
Petitions can also be presented to a meeting of the Full Council, Cabinet, Lake Administration Committee, Licensing and Licensing Regulatory Committees or the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
If you would like to present your petition a meeting, or would like your Councillor to present it on your behalf, please contact the Committee Services Team in writing or by email at least ten working days before the meeting. If you would like to discuss this please contact the Committee Services Team and we will talk you through the process.
Anyone who lives, works or studies in the District of South Lakeland, including under-18s, can sign or organise a petition.
Petitions submitted to us must include:
- a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition. It should also state what action the petitioners wish us to take
- the name, address (including postcode) and signature of any person supporting a paper petition
- the name, address (including postcode) and email address of any person supporting an online petition
Where a person supporting a petition does not live within South Lakeland, they must indicate whether they work or study within the district and the South Lakeland address to which this applies in order to meet the requirements set out in paragraph 2 above.
Petitions 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. The contact details of the petition organiser will not be placed on the website. Petitions which do not identify a petition organiser will not be accepted.
Petitions which are considered to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted. If a petition does not follow the guidelines set out above, we may decide not to do anything further with it. In that case, we will write to you to explain the reasons.
Once you have submitted your 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. It will also be published on our website.
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 Full Council debate, or a senior officer giving evidence, then the acknowledgement 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.
If the petition applies to a planning or licensing application, is a statutory petition (e.g. requesting a referendum on having an elected mayor), or on a matter where there is already a right of appeal, such as council tax banding and non-domestic rates, other procedures apply. Further information on all these procedures and how you can express your views can be found elsewhere on this website.
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 acknowledgment of the petition.
To ensure that people know what we are doing in response to the petitions we receive, the details of all the petitions submitted to us will be published on our website, except in cases where this would be inappropriate. Whenever possible we will also publish all correspondence relating to the petition (personal details will be removed).
When you sign an e-petition you can elect to receive this information by email. We will not send you anything which is not relevant to the e-petition you have signed, unless you choose to receive other emails from us.
Our response to a petition
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, Cabinet or committee 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 Committees*
- calling a referendum
- writing to the petition organiser setting out our views about the request in the petition
*The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is a 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 the vast majority of cases your petition will be submitted to one of the council’s formal meetings where elected councillors will decide how to respond to the petition. These meetings will be held in public and petitioners are welcome to attend the meeting to observe the proceedings. The petition organiser will be entitled to briefly address the meeting.
Depending on the subject matter your petition will be submitted to either the Full Council, the Cabinet or the Council’s Lake Administration Committee, Licensing and Licensing Regulatory Committees or Overview and Scrutiny Committee. There are two exceptions to this:
- if your petition contains more than 1,000 signatures then it must be debated by the Full Council
- if your petition is asking for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting then it will be considered by one of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees provided it contains at least 500 signatures
In addition to these steps, we will consider all the specific actions we can potentially take on the issues highlighted in a petition.
Examples of steps that the council could take in response to a petition
Petition subject: Alcohol related crime and disorder
Appropriate steps: If your petition is about crime and disorder linked to alcohol consumption, the Council will, among other measures, consider the case for placing restrictions on public drinking in the area by establishing a designated public places order or, as a last resort, imposing an alcohol disorder zone. When an alcohol disorder zone is established the licensed premises in the area where alcohol related trouble is being caused are required to contribute to the costs of extra policing in that area. The Council’s response to your petition will set out the steps we intend to take and the reasons for taking this approach.
Petition subject: Anti-social behaviour
Appropriate steps: As the elected representative of your local area, as social landlord and licensing authority, the Council plays a significant role in tackling anti-social behaviour. The Council, in conjunction with other partners in the South Lakeland Community Safety Partnership have set out minimum service standards for responding to issues of anti-social behaviour.
If your petition is about something over which we have no direct control (eg the local railway or hospital) we will aim to make representations on behalf of the community to the relevant body. We work with a large number of local partners and where possible will work with these partners to respond to your petition. If we are unable to do this for any reason (eg if what the petition calls for conflicts with our policy), then we will set out the reasons for this to you.
If your petition is about something that a different council is responsible for, we will give consideration to what is the best method for responding to it. It 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 1,000 signatures it will be debated by 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 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. Full Council will decide how to respond to the petition at this meeting. They 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. The petition organiser will receive written confirmation of the decision. This confirmation will also be published on the 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, or to explain the advice given to elected Members to enable them to make a particular decision.
If your petition contains at least 500 signatures, the relevant senior officer will give evidence at a public meeting of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The list of senior staff that can be called to give evidence is below:
- Chief Executive
- Director of Policy and Resources (Monitoring Officer)
- Director of People and Places
- Assistant Director Resources (Section 151 Officer)
You should be aware that the Overview and Scrutiny Committees 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. Committee members will ask the questions at this meeting, but you will be able to suggest questions to the chair of the committee by contacting the Solicitor to the Council, up to three working days before the meeting.
After the meeting the committee will submit a report within 14 working days and this report will be considered at the next meeting of the authority. The petition organiser will receive a copy of this report.
Petitions we cannot accept
The vast majority of petitions we receive will be accepted but in certain circumstances petitions may not be accepted, including:
- if the petition applies to a planning 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 or a separate complaints process
- any petition which we consider to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate. We will explain the reasons for this in our acknowledgement of the petition
- where a person or organisation (or someone on their behalf) has submitted a petition which is the same or substantially the same as one submitted within the previous 12 months
If we decide that a petition is not acceptable then we will let the petition organisers know our reasons.
We welcome e-petitions which are created and submitted through our website. All e-petitions must follow the petition guidelines set out above. If a petition organiser wishes to use an e-petition facility not administered by us, they must ensure that the chosen system will allow the correct information to be provided for it to be accepted. If you are unsure please contact Committee Services.
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. Most petitions run for six months, but you can choose a shorter or longer timeframe, up to a maximum of 12 months.
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. You will be able to change and resubmit your petition if you wish. If you do not do this within ten 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, it will automatically be submitted to Committee Services. In the same way as a paper petition, you will receive an acknowledgement within ten working days. If you would like to present your e-petition to a Council, Cabinet or committee meeting please contact Committee Services within five days of the petition closing and at least ten working days before the relevant meeting, whichever is the earlier.
A petition acknowledgement and response will be emailed to everyone who has signed the e-petition and elected to receive this information. The acknowledgment and response will also be published on our website.
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.
If you feel your 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 Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviews the steps that we have taken in response to your petition.
The committee will consider your request within 30 days of receiving it. Should the committee determine we have not dealt with the petition adequately, it may use any of its powers to deal with the matter. These powers include instigating an investigation, making recommendations to Cabinet 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 five working days. The results of the review will also be published on our website.
Other ways to have your say
We recognise that petitions are just one way in which people can let us know about their concerns. There are a number of other ways in which you can have your say including asking questions at meetings and through our complaints system.