Agenda item

Car parking petitions


The Monitoring Officer introduced his report detailing a petition submitted in relation to car parking charges in Sidmouth and the Council’s formal response.  One of the organisers of the petition had requested a review of the way it had been handled in accordance with the Council’s petition scheme rules, and the Committee was asked to determine whether there were any recommendations that it wished to make in relation to the specific petition or the Council’s petition scheme or handling of petitions generally.


Discussion of the report included the following points:

·        Some members expressed a view that the petition submitted in relation to car parking charges ought to have been accepted for Council debate, on the basis that:

o   at 1469, the number of valid signatories was only just shy of  the threshold of 1500;

o   there had been a lot of noise around the issue of car parking charges and it was important to demonstrate that the voices of local people were being listened to;

o   it was possible that some of the signatories that had been discounted on the grounds that a postcode was missing or incomplete might nevertheless work or study in the district and therefore been eligible to sign the petition;

o   given that visitors to Sidmouth were affected by car parking charges, it was argued that they should legitimately be able to sign the petition and not be discounted.

·        Other members expressed support for the position taken by the Monitoring Officer in response to the petition, given that:

o   The Monitoring Officer had taken a pragmatic view and erred on the side of generosity in considering the petition; he had done his due diligence in accordance with the rules in place at the time the petition was submitted;

o   It was important that the threshold of 1500 was adhered to because to let some petitions through and not others could leave the Monitoring Officer open to allegations of bias.  Parliament also have clear thresholds concerning petitions and the Council should follow the example.  If Members want to move the threshold for Council debate, then this should be done by changing the policy.

o   The Council is answerable to its tax payers including those who have businesses in East Devon, which is why only people who live, work or study in East Devon are able to contribute to East Devon petitions.  To extend petitions beyond the boundaries of the district would dilute democracy for the people of East Devon.

o   The onus is on the organiser of the petition to ensure that signatories live, work or study in East Devon, and that they supply their full postcode for the purposes of verification; the petition concerning car parking had contained some signatories with only partial postcode, and some signatories that had been discounted were from elsewhere in the country, and oversees.

·        Some members indicated that the Council should have its own platform for electronic petitions, with a field directing signatories to input their postcode.  It was suggested that the data could be cross-referenced against the electoral roll, for the purposes of verification; a counterview was offered that this would not be appropriate since not everyone eligible to sign a petition would be on the electoral register.

·        Other members suggested it was important the Council accepts paper petitions, in the interests of equal opportunities and ensuring the system was accessible to all. 

·        It was important to promote awareness among the people of East Devon of the ways that they can make their voices heard including by means of petition or public speaking at meetings.


In a vote of Committee members, the following recommendations were made.



·        To consider a petition platform within the Council’s website.

·        To publicise the council’s petition scheme via the Council’s weekly press release.



The minutes of this meeting held on 9 June 2022 were subsequently referred back to the Committee for further consideration from the full Council meeting of 20 July 2022.


The Committee further considered the minutes at the meeting held on 8 September 2022 and Committee agreed the following amendment to this minute:


The Committee noted that a written statement had been submitted in advance of the meeting by a member of the public, Mr Richard Eley, by email to Scrutiny Committee members; while the Chair asked that the statement be set out in full in the meeting minutes it was highlighted that the statement has not been seen by the Monitoring Officer, nor discussed by the Committee, and may contain claims that are incorrect.




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