PetitionYourCouncil.com: making local council petitioning easier

PetitionYourCouncil.com from mySociety

Local petitions can be highly effective, and we think that making them easier to create is in the public interest. Many councils have petitions facilities buried deep within their websites,  most often, very deeply. In fact it brings to mind Douglas Adams’ quote about important council documents being “on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’”.

Our most recent mini-project is an attempt to make it as easy as possible to find your local council’s e-petitioning site, if they have one. PetitionYourCouncil.com (you’ll notice we stuck to our tried and tested format for site names, there) is a way of finding every council e-petitioning website we know about.

Our original motivation for building the site was that we, along with other suppliers, have supplied online e-petitioning sites to numerous councils ourselves – it’s one of the ways in which we fund our charitable activities. Having delivered these sites, we later noticed that many of them are left under-used and in some cases, not used at all: only because people don’t know about them. We hate to think of councils spending money on a splendid resource that could be improving democratic processes for their citizens – and those citizens never knowing that they exist. In particular, we owe Dave Briggs thanks for pushing us into action with this blog post.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, PetitionYourCouncil links to every council petitions site, not just the ones we made.

The site was built by mySociety developer Edmund von der Burg using Django, jQuery, Google maps and Mapit, and like most mySociety projects, it’s open source. There’s a bit more detail on the About page. Please do try it out, and let us know what you think.

3 Comments

  1. Kris Witherington

    Any chance you can name and shame council’s without a functioning system? Would it also be possible to produce some stats on levels of useage – number of petitions, signatures so that pressure can be put on those not playing the game?

  2. Patrick Gillard

    Don’t forget – the petition system is a complete figleaf if the Council in question has no intention or system for taking any action after the petition is successful.

    I know this from my own experience with Suffolk County Council when we petitioned against an iniquitous cut to young person’s travel concessions. This cut was imposed without consultation or impact assessments (and half-way through the academic year).

    We pulled out all the stops, involved media, local groups and thousands of concerned individuals and thus achieved the target number of signatures to address the council – which we were told was our constitutional right, only to discover that our success and effort led no further than a statement in the full council meeting from the very person who had made the cut – in identical words.

    We are now having to fight, not only to reverse the cut, but to have the petition properly responded to! Somebody with a cynical turn of mind might think this whole petition system is no more than institutional whitewash designed to make it look like the Council is listening to the people who pay their wages (and whose interests they are supposed to represent)! http://bit.ly/iVGmYb