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Petitions bring people power to Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:38 27 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

THE people of Great Yarmouth are to be given the power to demand that their borough council acts on or addresses their concerns.

On Wednesday night the borough council's cabinet agreed to set up a petition scheme which will allow as little as 20 people to ask for action to be taken on their behalf on local issues, such as parking or planning wrangles.

THE people of Great Yarmouth are to be given the power to demand that their borough council acts on or addresses their concerns.

On Wednesday night the borough council's cabinet agreed to set up a petition scheme which will allow as little as 20 people to ask for action to be taken on their behalf on local issues, such as parking or planning wrangles.

The approval of the wide-ranging petition scheme will mean residents' demands could lead to an inquiry, a public meeting with senior council officials or end up with their concerns being aired at a full council meeting.

If 20 people sign a correctly filled-in petition then a council officer would investigate the issue and report back to the petition's organiser.

On a larger level if 900 names - one pc of the population - are collected on a petition it will trigger a council debate at a later date.

And if a 1,500-name petition is submitted by hand, post or online to the council it will be heard at full council, with the petition organiser being given 10 minutes to make a presentation.

The full council will then decide to take action, ignore the petitioners' demands or commission a further investigation by a committee.

Council leader Barry Coleman gave a reserved welcome to the petition arrangements by saying borough councillors were aware of most issues in their wards and were very good at representing their electorate at meetings.

He said: “Our councillors are very diligent. But I do see how petitions offer up another opportunity for residents. Personally I am not a great believer in petitions as sometimes people do not really know what they are signing when a petition is waved in their face.”

Describing how he thought the new arrangements would work Mr Coleman added: “It is a matter of sucking it and see.”

The guidelines for the petition scheme state that anyone, including under-18-year-olds, can sign and organise one if they live, work and study in the borough.

Every petition signer must put down their name, address and signature.

A cabinet report on the petitions adds: “Petition which are considered to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate will not be accepted.”

If residents feel their petitions have not been dealt with properly then a petition organiser will be able to request the council's scrutiny committee to review the process.

Councillor Mick Castle, leader of the opposition Labour group, also broadly welcomed the petition scheme.

But he added that he found it “ridiculous” that a village with a small population under a 1,000 would not be able to call for a full council meeting as it fell under the 1,500 name threshhold.

The petition scheme will be debated by full council next month with plans for residents being able to create and submit petition online from December.

l What do you think? Write to Letters at the Mercury, 169 King Street, Great Yarmouth NR30 2PS or email anne.edwards@archant.co.uk

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