I’ve been spending lots of time on petitions this week with a Consultation Institute round table on Thursday and a workshop for members in North Lincs. Both were really interesting with a lot of points raised. It does seem that with the Local Democracy Bill looking like it will get passed fairly soon people are starting to think about how to implement it.

What’s great about workshops is that you always learn something new from participants and this is what I wanted to capture here:

  • There are some great connections to be made between the duty to promote democracy and the petitioning. Promoting petitioning supports the duty and leveraging petitioning to encourage other democratic activities then furthers this. Given the fact that the duty to promote democracy will cause some headaches as to how to achieve it I think this is a good connection to make
  • We need to make sure members are aware that the signing or supporting of petitions is something that they need to declare – and it might be worth putting that in petitions guidance so that the petitioners are clear on what the Member can and can’t do
  • In terms of members – the petitioning could be seen as a tool for them to use alongside the councillor call to action. Call to action will tend to be far more complex but they are both good routes for backbenchers in particular to get a space on the agenda.

As I have said many times my interest in petitions is based around how they are a formal piece of democracy that acts in an informal way. I think I am also seeing how they can be used to emphasis the role of members in these online democratic processes which helps us to mitigate the distinct social web risk of direct democracy overwhelming the representative process.