Fringe Box



Change to Petition Signature Threshold Shelved by Council Executive

Published on: 1 Oct, 2014
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2014

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 The council’s constitution had fallen well out of date.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  in full council at their next meeting on October 7th.


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Responses to Change to Petition Signature Threshold Shelved by Council Executive

  1. Mike Davis Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    It only shows that when things get tough they always want to move the goal posts just to save themselves.

  2. Mr Graham Moore Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I share the concerns of councillor Anne Meredith. We don’t want Chinese “democracy” here.

  3. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    So the leader of the council has now apparently been put on the same footing as the mayor.

    With so many senior councillors not wishing to accept the honour of being elected to this office, perhaps consideration should now be given to withdrawing the role altogether and just have a leader of the council?

  4. Helen Jefferies Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    What concerns me is that if these proposals hadn’t been picked up, completely by chance, there is a better than even chance that the Executive would have voted them all through.

    So much for listening and transparency – the electorate is already suspicious due to the total inadequacy of the Draft Local Plan evidence base and this kind of subterfuge by the Executive will only exacerbate what is already a very fragile situation.

  5. David Goodwin Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    We in the Guildford Liberal Democrats will be opposing this change in the constitution. This is why I have also put forward my motion (Item 14, Council Agenda for 7 October 2014) which proposes to scrap this existing Executive system and introduce, what we feel is, a fairer, democratic committee system.

    This debate will take place at that council meeting.

    David Goodwin is the Lib Dem Borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas

  6. Peter Shaw Reply

    October 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    More worryingly though is that although they kept petition numbers the same to trigger a full council meeting (i.e. 500), they passed measures that meant petitions which were on issues that were currently under statutory consultation (i.e. the Local Plan), would not be heard and instead the petition would be redirected and become part of the consultation responses.

    We all know how well GBC responded to the Issues and Options document consultation!

    If this is voted in by the full council on the 7th October at GBC, then petitions and public debates (i.e. the SHMA debate or the Send Garages debate) seen and reported on by The Dragon and other media outlets will never happen again, whilst a statutory consultation is ongoing at the same time.

    Is this what we want from a local council?

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