Change to Petition Signature Threshold Shelved by Council Executive

With thanks again to the Guildford Dragon

petitionThe size of a petition required to force a debate by the full council is to remain at 500 signatures despite a proposal contained in a list of recommendations following a review of the council’s constitution.

The Executive of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) decided tonight (September 30) not to recommend enactment of  the proposal to increase, by five times – to 2,500, the amount of signatures required to trigger a full council debate until the Local Plan discussions have run their course.

But the Executive did decide to recommend the other proposals put forward in the review which had covered the procedure rules for: the council; public speaking; access to information; the Executive; overview and scrutiny committee; budget and policy framework; procurement and financial procedures.

Council leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) said of the proposed changes: “This is an hugely important piece of work. The council’s constitution had fallen well out of date. Revising an entire constitution for an organisation like this is no mean feat.”

A public speaker, Dr Peter Shaw, said the there was most concern about the increase in the number of signatures required for a petition to force a debate in the full council. none of his friends and colleagues he said could find the reason for the increase explained.

Cllr Anne Meredith (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem Group said: “It is important that the proposed alterations do improve how the council operates but more importantly the decisions we make about any constitutional changes are based on clear democratic principles.

“We agree with many of the changes but there are a number of areas that concern us.” She listed the proposals causing her group concern as:

  • the election chairs and vice chairs of committees by a selection of committee instead of the committees themselves electing them;
  • the granting of a right to the leader of the council to make statements to the full council, in addition to the Mayor;
  • the number of signatures required for a petition to trigger a full council debate;
  • the increase in the number of councillors required to “call in”, for review, decisions made by the Executive and;
  • alterations in procedure rules regulating how debates are conducted.

Earlier comments emails and comments on social media were circulating, including some from the Guildford Greenbelt Group, stating concern about the proposal to raise the petition threshold.

The review and the proposals will now be debated by in full council.

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