online petitions concept

About the portal

This ePetitions Portal is supported by Web Labs to bring down barriers to democracy.

ePetitions are now a fact of life, right across the UK from small town councils right up to 10 Downing Street's e-petitions. If there was a Government u-turn to-morrow and the Local Democracy Act was abolished, the citizens of this country would still need to express themselves by petitioning and or supporting campaigns they wish to support.

Your Government now allows you to create and sign petitions online. Using the internet to create an e-petition allows you as a part of much wider audience to campaign, express your opinion and support other initiatives as well as giving you the opportunity to gather more names to support your petition.

Anyone who lives, works or studies in any Authority area may submit a petition to that Authority. So if you wish to raise an issue or have your views heard on a council matter or policy you may want to set up a petition. You can submit your petition by using our online e-petition facility.

Each Authority below provides guidance about how to set up your petition and how the Authority will respond to it. In the spirit of fairness and transparency all petitions that are submitted to Authorities respective website's will be accepted, as long as they comply to their terms and conditions.

The availability of e-petitioning and ease of use should ensure that there are less obstacles in setting up a successful petition.

The legal requirement for local authorities to provide an e-petition facility is set out in Section 10 of the 2009 Local Democracy Act, whilst Section 138 of The Local Government and Public Involvement Act 2007 introduced a legal duty on authorities to "inform, consult and involve" local people (including all those who live/work/study in area) in decision making across all public functions. This duty is commonly known as the 'duty to involve'.

Other legislative drivers include The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and The Equalities Act 2006.

Our aim is to support the community by opening up democracy and inclusion through as many channels and to as many people as possible to make their views known. That is why Web Labs have made this site available.

Frequently asked questions posed by local government officers

General

Can petitions to be published to our own web site hosted by a third party?

Petitions-Manager can be supplied to operate via a shared portal or to be designed to integrate into your own web site, this will involve producing a set of templates and CSS to display the product in the Councils branding.

We would like Accepted Petitions to held on the web site for 1 year. Can this be done?

Petitions Manager will automatically can remove the Petitions after 12 months from the published date. The data will be archived and the personal data 'XXX' out as is required by law, keeping only the Petitions Title, Date and the Number of signatures supporting the petition. The period that the data is overwritten is configurable by the administrator and can be set to 12 months of any period required.

As Petitions could contain private data can 'Raw data' to be held locally. Hoe does the system deal with this sort of data?

All the data will be stored on your Server and as mentioned above personal data is cleared after one year. As an alternative Petitions-Manager can be operated entirely through a web portal hosted by Web-Labs.

Can an automated Response be sent to all Supporters of a petition?

Petitions-Manager gives the Supporter the option to 'opt in' to receive all 'Progress Information' about a petition including thresholds met, Public Meetings being held and other status reports.

We would like Rejected Petitions published along with the reason/s. Can this be published too?

Petitions-Manager provides the Administrator with the ability to inspect submitted petitions if the decision to reject the petition is taken this is relayed to the sponsor via email with the reasons this status is 'temporary rejection' if the petition sponsor does not respond with one calendar month then the petition is deemed rejected and published to the web site with all the details. If the sponsor responds with a new edited version of the petition this is treated as a new submission and the previous version archived.

Can all petitions other than those containing foul language and/or law breaking to be published on the Councils web site?

When a petition is submitted to the Council the administrator can check the petition for compliance. All petitions that comply will be automatically published to the web site with a start and close date and ot Petitions not needing to be published for foul language and/or law breaking can be deleted from the system her information. Petitions that do not comply can have 'standard reasons' for rejection or special reasons added to the rejection 'form' that is sent back to the sponsor.

Is CAPTCHA or other challenge response task to be included to prevent automatic software performing system degradation activities?

Petitions-Manager requires as standard the sponsor and supporters to enter a valid email address to which a conformation request is sent. All activities are classed as unverified until a confirmation email is relayed back to the system. If required CAPTCHA facilities can be included.

The Council will require a two year support contract with the ability to increase by a further year. Can this sort of contract be arranged?

Web Labs are prepared to offer a two year fixed price contract with a further one year extension subject to cost changes reflecting the RPI.

Viewing Petitions

We would like Public Users to be able to view current, closed, and rejected petitions as a list of Titles which link to a Petitions Description Page. Is this included?

Petitions-Manager is parameter driven and can publish the petitions information exactly as required, although as standard the 'list' displays sponsor, dates and number of signatures

Can petitions be listed by deadline, size, start date and category?

Petitions-Manager allows searches by 'closing date' start date, and searches by category, keyword, and number of supporting signatures.

QDoes the system allow a free text search of e-petitions titles, text and category?

Petitions manager provides all of this functionality.

Supporting (signing) a petition

We would like a potential Sponsor to have displayed a 'Sign Up Form' with instructions on 'How to sign a petition'. Can sponsors be addded?

Petitions-Manager presents a screen of fields to be completed with instructions and access to 'On-Line Help' screens.

Can the a description of the 'Aims of the Petition' and list of current supporting signatures be shown?

Petitions-Manager displays a Title of the Petition, Description of The Petition, List of current supporting signatures and as an option supporting material in the form of documents and/or graphics.

The Petitions System must display Total of Number of Signatures and Expiry date. Is there this sort of flexibility in the system?

Petitions-Manager displays total number of signatures and the expiry (Close) date that is highlighted when it is less than 7 days to the close date.

Can a supporter of a petition to enter name, email address, and postcode? Can we vary the fields for different petitions?

Petitions-Manager ask for the following fields to be completed Name, Email address, and postcode- the system also ask whether the supporter Lives, Works, or Studies in the Councils catchment area.

Can the postcode to be checked to ensure it falls within the Councils catchment area?

Petitions-Manager checks a postcode database to check whether the supporter works, resides or studies in the Council's catchment area. In addition Petitions-Manager can be integrated to the Councils Gazetteer System to check addresses and/or the postcode database can be added to with certain petitions that are e.g. on the boundaries of the Council and could well effect the residents of neighbouring areas. On a Petition by Petition basis some petitions e.g. those effecting Tourism could well apply to supporters outside of the councils boundaries and in these circumstances these can be allowed.

We would like users to verify vote by responding to an automated email?

Petitions-Manager sends and automated email to Users that must be acknowledged for the signature to be validated. Signatures not validated can be deleted or a second automated reminder email sent seven days before the closing date of petition and either validated or deleted according to the outcome of the second email.

Only one signature per email address is permitted. Can this be forced to prevent fraud?

Petitions-Manager allows the administrator to dictate the number of signatures per email address e.g. some Councils set the default value at one whereas others assume that elderly couples will share an email address so they permit two signatures per email address.

Creating a petition

To create a New Petition ideally the User needs to submit the details via an online form, minimum details as follows, Name, Email address, Postcode, Title, Petition details, Requested duration.

The user fills in a registration form requesting their title, first name, last name, full address, postcode, email address, password they wish to use, whether they live, work or study in the area. This then sends an email back for them to confirm their email address and activates their login (email address and password) once activated they can create their petition. We go through the registration process once for ease of use for returning users. After registration the Sponsor can enter Petition Details, Requested Duration, and optionally attach supporting documents and graphics whose size is controlled by the system and set by the administrator.

Confirmation will be required before the petition is published. Can the method of responding to an automated email or similar method be employed?

Petition-Manager allows the Administrator to verify the details submitted to change the requested Publish and/or Close dates, check the petition and attachments for bad language and legality, set thresholds and accept or reject the petition. This information is confirmed to the sponsor by email. If accepted the Petition is published on the web site at the agreed date. If rejected the sponsor has thirty days to respond before the petition is rejected.

Back office administration

Authorised Council staff must be able to amend or remove e-petitions. Can this be arranged?

Petitions-Manager enables Administrators to amend petitions at any time although we advise that this should only be done prior to publishing. The Administrator can remove Petitions from the web site at any time although the system will remove them from display after twelve months

Ideally an automated profanity checker will perform initial checks on e-petition submissions and indicate with asterisk. Is this a feature?

Petitions-Manager can incorporate a profanity checker however no petition is made public until it has been scrutinised and approved by the Administrator

Ideally Rejected e-petitions are to be displayed with a reason for rejection. Can this be done?

Petitions-Manager allows for the Administrator to return 'rejected petitions to the sponsor for editing if there is no response is received within 30 days the Petition is deemed rejected and is published with the reasons for rejection onto the web site

Does it have the facility to log hardcopy petitions which have been delivered physically to the council offices?

Petitions-Manager has the facility to attach any documents associated to an e-petition to the specific file. Paper Petitions can be scanned and added to the file and the signature count from the paper petition added to the number of signatures collected from the e-petition to provide a total signature count.

Can each e-petition on the system trigger reports once a certain threshold has been reached (i.e. at 500, 1000, 5000 signatures)?

Petitions-Manager has a reporting system that enables a number of reports to be produced. Also Petitions Manager is designed to indicate that certain 'Actions' should take place when certain thresholds are reached, according to Government Legislation and the Councils e-petitions policies.

Can the system be indexable and searchable by the council's Google Mini box (which is hosted externally)?

Petitions Manager is searchable by Google Mini Box HP.

Training and Support

Will a training and support package must be included in the proposal?

Web Labs provide on-site training and annual support, maintenance and software upgrades renewal annually.

Options

An optional text (SMS) signing module may be offered?

Web Labs have a SMS administration module that can be incorporated we also have a wide experience of implementing mobile phone solutions into Local Councils. We would need to know what information the Councils wants to be displayed on the limited mobile phone screen, what information needs to be input and in what format and the verification process required before implementing the solution.

Data may be drawn from the system to be displayed on other pages and presented as a list such as top 10 e-petitions or most recent e-petitions?

These functions can easily be incorporated into the web service so that other applications can consume the data produced it is a matter of defining exactly what information you wish to extract and where it needs to be published.

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