Headlines: April 1st, 2010

Local people will soon be able to demand their council takes action on underperforming schools and hospitals, drink disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new rules giving real power to local petitions.

From June 15, 2010 councils will have a statutory duty to respond to petitions for the first time and tell local people what action is going to be taken to address their concerns. All councils currently receive petitions, but a survey by the LGA found that only 28 per cent guarantee an automatic response to petitions. The new petition rules will bring the standards of all councils up to those of the best.

Examples of where petitions can be effective include anti-social behaviour. A petition may ask for the courts to grant an Anti-social Behaviour Order or for a Premises Closure Order to close properties where there is persistent nuisance or disorder.

Alcohol related crime and disorder is another area where petitions are used. A petition can call for a restriction on public drinking in the area by establishing a Designated Public Place Order or, as a last resort, imposing an Alcohol Disorder Zone.

Petitions can be made about any public service, for example an under-performing hospital. It can ask the council’s scrutiny committee to investigate concerns on issues like poor hygiene. The scrutiny committee has power to review services, request information from NHS bodies, and make urgent recommendations. The committee will work with Local Involvement Network, which has powers to carry out spot checks and seek information and responses from health service providers.