Residents launch LAST-MINUTE fight to scrap Council plans to restrict resident engagement and ban online petitions

 

Residents in Kingston have launched an urgent motion to force a debate on the proposed constitutional changes which would BAN Change.org and 38 Degrees petitions, together with making it 23 times harder to force debates at Council meetings on issues affecting residents.

James Giles said: “Through a call-in, we saved the Fountain Roundabout. Through a community motion, we scrapped the CPZ hikes. The Council are now threatening to take our rights to call a motion away, and raise the call-in threshold to 2310, making any challenge of their decisions near impossible.

“They haven’t ruled out putting CPZ prices up in the future, or guaranteeing the future of the roundabout – and I believe they’ll sneak these in through the backdoor if they’re allowed to get away with it.

“Please join me in signing this motion which calls on them to put residents first and stop these plans to take away our rights to scrutinise them – we are supposedly a democracy, but they’re turning the Council into a dictatorship.”

 

The council will debate these changes on Tuesday 15th October at 7:30pm, at the Guildhall in Kingston. All are welcome.

Sign the motion here:

COMMUNITY MOTION: Demand Better Resident Engagement! - AND write to your councillors

Dear Councillors,

I’m writing to ask you to support the community motion below regarding proposed changes to the constitution of Kingston Council. The current plans seek to silence resident voice and scrutiny - this is not acceptable.

I'm writing as the motion has now been submitted, and would like you to support it during the meeting.

The Liberal Democrats were elected on a manifesto of being a ‘listening’ Council, but this goes completely against this.

Please consider this, and in sending this I am also confirming my support for the motion.

Demanding Better on Engagement

Under Standing Order 7A of the Council's constitution, we, the undersigned, hereby submit a Community Motion for discussion at Full Council. If for any reason the Council are unable to debate this under Standing Order 7A, this is to be considered under Standing Order 7, as a petition.

This Council notes:               
i. the ability for residents, students or workers under Thurrock Council to call in decisions with a threshold of 10 signatures;
ii. the vote of the Council in 2016, resolving to scrap any proposals to remove the Fountain Roundabout in New Malden;
iii. the vote of the Council in 2019, resolving to scrap proposed hikes in CPZ increases and seek a ‘better way forward’;
iii. that the ability for residents and community organisations in Kingston to submit deputations have led to a number of positive outcomes in the borough, including over £30k extra revenue for the Council in the last year;   
iv. that the Council’s petition system requires residents to register an account with the portal in order to sign a petition;
v. the Liberal Democrats were elected on a manifesto of being a “listening” authority that would re-introduce scrutiny

This Council believes:               
i. Thurrock’s model is to be held as a ‘gold-standard’ of call-ins, producing constructive solutions to issues in the borough led by residents;              
ii. It is important that the public can trust the local authority, which means respecting votes held by the local authority on matters including the Fountain Roundabout and the scrapping of proposed CPZ hikes;           
iii. It would be a betrayal of public trust to use any constitutional changes, which restrict residents’ rights to engage at strategic committees and Full Council, as a means to push through controversial policies which have previously been voted against;
iv. Deputations serve as a means for members of the public to engage with all members at Full Council, and that the topical statements they bring are incredibly worthwhile;
v. It is wrong to restrict the use of modern technology, in regard to resident engagement, by refusing petitions collected on sites used worldwide, such as Change.Org and 38 Degrees; and
vi. Any Liberal Democrat councillor who votes for constitutional changes that restrict the rights of residents to engage at strategic committees and Full Council are in breach of the manifesto commitments they made in 2018.
               
This Council resolves to:               
i. Immediately reverse any changes (and/or scrap any proposed changes) to the constitution which increase thresholds for petitions, restoring the threshold to 500 signatures for a Full Council debate;
ii. Immediately reverse any changes (and/or scrap any proposed changes) to the call-in system from the system in place as of 14th October 2019, whereby call-in waivers have to be sought before the initial decision, signatories can be collected electronically via non-council websites, and the threshold is 100 interested persons (defined as living, working, studying, owning a property or business in the borough);             
iii. Immediately reverse any changes (and/or scrap any proposed changes) to resident engagement on items at strategic committees, whereby contributions are able to be submitted on the night and at the discretion of the chair;
iv. Immediately reverse any changes (and/or scrap any proposed changes) to remove the right of individuals and organisations to make topical statements (in the form of deputations) to Full Council and strategic committee meetings;
v. establish a Citizens Assembly on Engagement and Communications, with a scope to include resident engagement at Council and committee meetings, together with external Council communications with stakeholders, to report back to Full Council with resident-led changes to the constitution regarding engagement, and resident-led changes to improve external communications; and
vi. commit to respect the vote of the Council in 2016 to scrap proposed changes to the Fountain Roundabout, by committing that there will be no changes resulting in the removal of the roundabout throughout this administration’s term in office.

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We will also send a copy of your submission to  councillors, urging them to also back the campaign.

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