Gateshead residents will soon be able to petition the Council to debate specific local issues. And the petition plan has been welcomed by a leading member of the Liberal Democrat opposition.
All councils have been required to introduce a scheme that will give people the right to petition for debates on issues of local concern. 2000 signatures on a petition will trigger a debate at a subsequent council meeting.
And by December, all Councils will be required to allow people to set up on-line petitions on their websites on issues relevant to the work of local government.
Councillor Jonathan Wallace, a keen supporter of on-line communication with residents, has welcomed the plans but wants Gateshead Council to go further.
“Allowing people to petition the council to hold a debate on a specific local issue is a good step forward,” said Cllr Wallace. “On-line petitions have already been tried out on the Downing Street website and have attracted some interest.
“My concern is that Gateshead will allow a debate of only 15 minutes on a petition issue. Once the leader of the Council and Leader of the Opposition have spoken, there will be little time left for other Councillors to take part.
“This could curtail the debate and prevent Councillors making the full contribution they want to. I feel the time limit should be scrapped.”
Councillor Wallace raised his concerns about the time limit at the Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 8th June. Council Leader, Mick Henry, replied that the system would be reviewed once it was up and running.