The Petitions Scheme
The information in a petition must be submitted in good faith and comply with the law. Each petition will be considered on an individual basis and it will be open to the County Council to exercise discretion in how it responds.
a) Anybody who lives, works or studies in Hampshire and is over the age of 13 will be able to raise a petition asking for an action to be taken by the County Council;
b) Any matter raised with the County Council that identifies itself as such will be dealt with as a petition, which may include issues relating to partner organisations;
c) If a petition raises issues that relate to a partner organisation, the petition will be considered on an individual basis to determine which organisation is best placed to respond and the petition organiser notified;
d) Details of the petitions received, number of signatures and the responses provided will be published on the County Council’s website;
e) Petitions will be acknowledged within five working days with a response or details of the action being taken provided within 20 working days of the acknowledgement letter;
f) If a petition is not being considered under the scheme, the reasons for this will be included in the response;
g) Responses to petitions will be appropriate and proportionate to the issue raised;
h) Petitions of 32,000 signatures (circa 2.5% of the population of Hampshire) or more may request for a matter to be debated in full Council or request that an Executive Member or senior office attend a meeting of the relevant Select/Overview and Scrutiny Committee;
i) If a petition organiser does not consider that the response of the County Council has been adequate, they can request that the matter be referred to the relevant Select/Overview and Scrutiny Committee; and
j) For locally specific petitions where the number of signatures totals 2.5% of the County Electoral Division(s), the subject will be debated by the appropriate Hampshire Action Team(s) (HAT) and from there can be referred to full Council, via the appropriate channels.
Guidance about exclusions to the Scheme
Some issues will not be an appropriate channel for a petition. In order to avoid duplication, the policy areas of planning and licensing are excluded as are other matters where there is a statutory right to a review or appeal (except where there is an alleged failure of the County Council in respect of one of its functions).
Petitions initiated by Hampshire County Council employees where the subject matter relates directly to their employment or to their immediate area of responsibility are also excluded. This would cover matters where another right of recourse exists (e.g. the grievance procedure).
Petitions are not the right route for Freedom of Information requests; information about the FOI procedure can be found on the Freedom of Information web pages. Other routes to bring matters to the County Council’s attention may be more appropriate and more information is available on the Have Your Say web pages.
Petitions which are considered by the Head of Governance/Monitoring Officer to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted. Any petition rejected for these reasons will be formally reported to the Cabinet.
Petitions cannot target individual members of a community or County Council officers for reasons that do not relate to their role at the Council.
In the period immediately before an election or referendum petitions may need to be dealt with differently. If this is the case the reasons for this and the revised timescale which will apply will be discussed with the petition organiser.
The following exclusion criteria would normally apply:
a) potentially libellous, false, or defamatory statements;
b) information which may be protected by an injunction or court order (for example, the identities of children in custody disputes);
c) the names of individuals, or information where they may be identified, in relation to criminal accusations;
d) material which is potentially confidential, commercially sensitive, or which may cause loss or personal distress without justified cause;
e) any commercial endorsement, promotion of any product, service or publication;
f) the names of individual officials of public bodies, unless they are part of the senior management of those organisations. There is a complaints process available for disputes relating to the actions of individual officers and petitions regarding a County Council Officer must relate to their role in delivering public services and not their character, personality or private life;
g) the names of family members of elected representatives or officials of public bodies;
h) language which is offensive, intemperate, or inappropriately provocative. This not only includes obvious swear words and insults, but any language to which people reading it could reasonably take offence;
i) petitions that are substantially the same as an existing petition or petitions that have been submitted in the last 12 months;
j) petitions which ask for things outside the remit or powers of Hampshire County Council to influence;
k) statements that don't actually request any action;
l) wording that is impossible to understand.