The council sullenly complied with the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 on Wednesday. This act requires councils to have an online petitions system in place by December 15th. The council has done this as required but refuses to advertise it, I guess on the grounds that some pesky residents might actually use it. If you want to submit a petition to Ealing council use this link.
To get the politics out of the way this is a Labour bill which includes a raft of other local government measures that I understand the Tories might well repeal in the name of localism. The Tories arenâ€™t against petitions, they are against telling councils what to do. That does not stop councils choosing to make petitions easy and transparent. I think that whatever the law says our council should make petitions from members of the public a central part of what we debate in Ealing.
One of the Conservative councillors, Benjamin Dennehey, has been quick to put up a petition related to the rangers cut that the current Labour administration is proposing. I suspect that this will be a popular subject but it might be easier for people to sign up if it was not a councillor putting up the petition in the first place. After all councillors can table motions at council. The council’s petitions scheme allows the public to effectively table a motion. If a petition attracts 1,500 signatures (750 for issues affecting one or two wards alone) they get a short debate right at the start of the council meeting where the petitioner gets to present their petition at the start and sum up briefly at the end.
Although the online system only went up this week the scheme has been in force since June and has been used. In response to the new act the council adopted a petitions scheme at the full council meeting on 15th June, you can see the details here.
Indeed, at the last full council meeting on Tuesday we debated three petitions from members of the public:
Mr J Sear submitted the following petition about Hanwell Community Centre:
We the undersigned want to keep the building as a community centre so that the provision of sports, social and other facilities can continue, at affordable rates, for the benefit of all that live and work in the London Borough of Ealing. Furthermore, the undersigned do not agree with and will resist any residential development either in the existing building or built on it. The Centre is the focal hub of the Cuckoo Estate Conservation Area and must retain its unique position in the community.
The petition submitted had over 900 signatures.
Ms V Garrard submitted the following petition about the Albert Dane Centre and Links Project
We the undersigned are totally opposed to the closure of the Albert Dane Centre and the Links Project, oppose attempts to move our public services into the private sector and call on Ealing councillors to protect these front line services.
The petition submitted had over 1,600 signatures.
Ms K Brar submitted the following petition about the cinema site in central Ealing
Londoners and Ealing residents petition Empire Cinemas to commit to when they will begin to start work on the cinema. The delays and lack of focus has deeply affected local businesses and disengaged the local community. This petition seeks to re-focus attention on building the cinema without delay so that much needed tourism, trade and energy can be brought back to Ealing.
The petition submitted had over 2,100 signatures.
All three of these were good topics and worthy of a blog posting in their own right. Some councillors might resent the loss of airtime to the public but, I have to say I would much rather debate issues raised by the public than restrict ourselves to what the councillors dream up.