PLANS to strengthen rules about petitions to give residents the ability to demand that council officers and other elected representatives talk through particular issues are welcome, but they do not quite go far enough.
The policy, which has been adopted thanks to new legislation, introduces thresholds of 1,000 and 2,000 names, at which senior civil servants must address a council committee and call a full council meeting to debate the issue.
Whether these numbers are too high, or perhaps even too low, is debatable. Nevertheless, while this move ought to enable people to seek proper consideration of a problem or an explanation of a decision, one element that is absent from the policy is the ability for the lead petitioner to explain the background to the petition when they present it to a committee, as they are restricted to one minute to read it.
Furthermore, a full council meeting debate sparked by a petition would be limited to 10 minutes, which may be nowhere near long enough to properly discuss the details of an issue and could attract filibuster tactics to use up the time.
There is also no mention of the Tory/ Lib Dem coalition's promise to 'give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue' as mentioned, but not explained, in its Programme For Government.