Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Frequently asked questions

  • What is an e-petition?

    An e-petition is very similar to a paper based petition but it is created and signed on-line. Because it is on-line it is always available for new signatories. Each petition has its own web page where details about the aims of the petition are displayed, the current progress of the petition is reported, and from where the viewer of the page can sign the petition. When the petition has been considered by the Council, signatories of an e-petition receive an email to inform them of the CouncilĘs response.
  • What steps are involved in creating a petition?

    There are three main steps involved in creating a petition.

    Firstly, you need to create a draft petition, by completing a simple form. At this stage you can modify the content of the petition as often as you wish.

    Secondly, you need to submit the draft petition for approval. No further modification, other than the duration of the petition, will then be allowed.

  • Why might a petition be rejected?

    A petition might be rejected for a number of reasons. In the simplest case, your petition might not actually request an action, or might request an action that is outside of the remit of the council. You might have provided incorrect or inadequate contact details, used language that was inappropriate, potentially libellous or possibly defamatory. If a petition is considered to be a commercial promotion because, for example, it contains links to a web site, it would also be rejected.

    A petition would also be rejected because it duplicates an existing petition and this is easily overcome by first reviewing the currently open and recently closed petitions.

  • What happens if my petition is rejected?

    In the event that your petition is rejected you will be given the reasons for that rejection. You may, at the Council's discretion, be allowed to create a new version of the petition that addresses the reasons for the rejection. This new version must then be submitted for approval in the same manner as the previous version.
  • When will a petition be considered as finished?

    When a petition is created, you need to specify how long it should be open to signatories. You can specify this as a particular date (1 Jan 2011) or as a duration (6 months). The petition will be closed automatically at the end of this period. At any time whist a petition is open to signatories you can close it. This stops the petition receiving any more signatures but starts the process of consideration by the Council.
  • Can I use the same email address for different signatures?

    Unfortunately not. Each signatory of the petition must have their own email address.

    The same email address can be used if you are signing more than one petition. In such a case, you will not have to enter your contact details again, though you may alter them if you wish.

  • Can I remove my signature from a petition?

    If you have signed a petition but after consideration, decide you wish to withdraw that signature, you may do so provided the petition is still open to signatories. Use the Manage Petition and Signings option. You must first provide the email address you used to sign the petition. An email will be sent containing a hyperlink which will take you to a list of the petitions that you have created or signed. From the relevant petition page use the Withdraw button that appears at the bottom of the page.
  • How will a petition be handled by the Council?

    How the Council treats a petition will depend on the number of signatories that the petition attracts. A threshold of 50 signatories is the minimum amount before the Council will consider that there is a duty to respond. Should you wish to 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, a threshold of 1,000 signatories will be required. A threshold of 2,000 signatories will automatically mean that a full Council meeting will be arranged to discuss your petition.
  • Will I be kept informed about the progress of the petition?

    When the Council responds to a petition, the response is emailed to the proposer, and all signatories, in addition to appearing on the petition's webpage.
  • What can I do if I am unhappy with the Council's response?

    If you are unhappy about the way that the authority has dealt with your petition then you may appeal and ask for a review by a scrutiny committee. The proposer and all the signatories, will receive an email detailing the outcome of the review, in addition to it appearing on the petition's webpage.
  • What are the Terms and Conditions?

    The purpose of the e-petition service is to enable as many people as possible to make their views known. All petitions will be accepted and published on this website, providing they meet the criteria below.

    Petitions have long been sent to the Council by post, or delivered in person. E-petitions are welcome in the same way.

    Petitioners may freely disagree with the Council or call for changes of policy. There will be no attempt to exclude critical views and decisions to accept or reject will not be made on a party political basis.

    However, to protect this service from abuse, petitions must satisfy some basic conditions.

    To submit a petition, you must use the online form to provide:

    the title or subject of the petition;

    a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition. It should state what action the petitioner wishes Council to take. The petition will be returned to you to edit if it is unclear what action is being sought;

    the petition author's contact address (this will not be placed on the website);

    a duration for the petition.

    The information in a petition must be submitted in good faith. In order for the petition service to comply with the law and our Code of Conduct, you must not include:

    potentially libellous, false, or defamatory statements;

    information which may be protected by an injunction or court order (for example, the identities of children in custody disputes);

    material which is potentially confidential, commercially sensitive, or which may cause personal distress or loss;

    any commercial endorsement, promotion of any product, service or publication;

    URLs or web links (we cannot vet the content of external sites, and therefore cannot link to them from this site);

    the names of individual officials of public bodies, unless they are part of the senior management of those organisations;

    the names of family members of elected representatives or officials of public bodies;

    the names of individuals, or information where they may be identified, in relation to criminal accusations;

    language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative. This not only includes obvious swear words and insults, but any language to which people reading it could reasonably take offence (we believe it is possible to petition for anything, no matter how radical, politely).

    We reserve the right to reject:

    petitions that are similar to and/or overlap with an existing petition or petitions;

    petitions which ask for things outside the remit or powers of the Council

    statements that don't actually request any action - ideally start the title of your petition with a verb;

    wording that is impossible to understand;

    statements that amount to advertisements;

    petitions which are intended to be humorous, or which have no point about Council policy (however witty these are, it is not appropriate to use a publically-funded website for purely frivolous purposes);

    issues for which an e-petition is not the appropriate channel (for example, correspondence about a personal issue);

    Freedom of Information requests. This is not the right channel for FOI requests;

    We will strive to ensure that petitions that do not meet our criteria are not accepted, but where a petition is accepted which contains misleading information we reserve the right to post an interim response to highlight this point to anyone visiting to sign the petition.

    Common causes for rejection

    Petition sites, see a lot of people having petitions rejected for a handful of very similar reasons. In order to help you avoid common problems, we've produced this list:

    We don't accept petitions on individual legal cases such as deportations because we can never ascertain whether the individual involved has given permission for their details to be made publicly known. We advise petitioners to take their concerns on such matters directly to the Home Office.

    Please don't use 'shouting' capital letters excessively as they can make petitions fall foul of our 'impossible to read' criteria.

    Petitions relating to matters that are beyond the CouncilĘs control.

    We cannot accept petitions which call upon the Council to "recognise" or "acknowledge" something, as they do not clearly call for a recognisable action.

    Petitions that do not follow these guidelines cannot be accepted. In these cases, you will be informed of the reason(s) your petition has been refused. If this happens, we will give you the option of altering and resubmitting the petition so it can be accepted.

    Once accepted, petitions will be made available on this website for anyone to sign. Anyone signing the petition must provide their name, address and a verifiable email address. No personal details other than their name will be published on the site. Information about any individual will not be used for any other purpose than in relation to the petition.

    It will usually take up to five working days from the time a petition proposal is received for it to appear on the website, although during busy periods it may take longer.

    Your petition will be available on this website until the specified closing date. If, however, during this time it becomes clear that your petition is not being run in accordance with the terms, we reserve the right to withdraw it. If this happens, we will contact you first to allow you to address the concerns we raise and we will only remove the petition as a last resort.

    Please note that to keep the system manageable, and justify use of resources, we can usually only respond to serious petitions of 50 signatures or more.

    If the petition applies to a planning or licensing 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, such as Council Tax banding and non-domestic rates, other procedures apply.

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