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Public Right to Petition Herts County Council - Slashed!

February 24, 2016 4:43 PM

petitionThe Conservatives have proposed a change to the County Council's standing orders.

In a motion debated at Hertfordshire County Council yesterday, Lib Dems opposed changes to the way petitions are treated by the County Council.

​Council petitioners could see the removal of their right to having a debate on issues raised and if they are debated councillors will be restricted to just a 10 minute debate.

The changes voted through by the Conservative majority, mean that a petition that affects two or more County Council divisions will result in a report to the Cabinet Panel about the issues raised. And if there is a report the presentation of the petition and debate on it is restricted to just 15 minutes.

If a petition affects just one county division the petitioner gets just 2 minutes to present, there is no report and no debate and it is just given to officers to look into it. All petitions must have at least 100 signatures.

These changes were hotly opposed by Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said:

"This is an attack on democracy and it further erodes the right of residents to have their say on local issues and get a proper hearing. If these changes had been in place over the last year, out of the 10 petitions on the agenda for the Council's Highways Panel only two of them would have automatically had a report and debate, albeit restricted to 10 minutes each. This is unfair, undemocratic and shows that the Conservatives want not only to restrict the opposition but the very basic rights of residents to bring issues to all councillors attention.

'Over my last 15 years as a county councillor I have seen the Conservatives made regular changes to restrict opposition debate, removing rights to ask questions, restricting our motions, not allowing amendments to council plans, removing the local Highways panels - but this takes the biscuit as it attacks every resident's rights in Hertfordshire. I think it proves that the Tories do not want to hear what residents think!

'Interestingly of the 10 petitions that were on the agenda for the Highways panel all bar three of them were from Conservative held seats! They are ignoring the very people their councillors represent!'