10 year olds can sign petitions that could be debated by Powys councillors

Councillor Graham Breeze.
Councillor Graham Breeze.

Children as young as 10 years old will be able to play a part in democracy and sign petitions that can could be brought in front of Powys County Council for discussion.

At a meeting of the council’s Democratic Services committee on Monday, February 21, councillors looked at proposals that provide a framework for for submitting a petition and it’s outcomes.

It is a legal requirement that all local authorities in Wales publish a petition scheme.

At the meeting the council’s head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney explained that in Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council children as young as 10 would be allowed to sign petitions.

Mr Pinney advised councillors that in Powys people of 16 years old and over are allowed to sign petitions as they are in the Welsh Senedd elections.

Councillor Jackie Charlton said: “I concur with Merthyr, people under the age of 16 don’t have any rights to a say in anything and it would be really interesting to find out what the Children’s Commission has to say on this.

“I do think we need to hear the voice of those under the age of 16, it’s a really important issue and we need to find a way of doing that.

“If Merthyr are using it, it can be done.”

Councillor Graham Breeze argued that such a low age limit would mean more checking work for council staff to verify the identity of those signing petitions.

Mr Pinney said that those over 16 would be checked against the electoral register – but under 16 would require checking school registers.

Councillor Breeze said: “We’ll be opening a can of worms with it being 10 and lots of issues for this council to work through in determining what age people are, and whether the names are correct or that they exist.

“I am concerned about how we cope, how this extra work would be handled, will there be a cost and need to enlist more staff.”

Councillor Sarah Williams said that if the work to check ages of those over 16 took place, then it would be “discrimination” not to do the same to those between 10 and 16 years old.

A vote on the age limit was held and five voted in favour of the 10-year-old limit, four against and one abstention.

The second question councillors needed to answer was to set a limit on levels of signatures needed for a petition to be looked at and possibly debated at a council meeting.

The committee had several schemes in front of them from other authorities, but discussion centred on the arrangements favoured by Blaenau Gwent and Bridgend County Borough Councils.

Councillor Graham Breeze put forward the “Bridgend” model which was agreed unanimously by the committee.

Committee chairman Elwyn Vaughan added that the petition scheme could be reviewed and tweaked in a year’s time.

The committee’s recommendation will now need to be approved at a full council meeting and if agreed will come into force from May.

The Bridgend petitions model is:

Petitions with 50 to 100 signatures receive a response form the relevant service director or cabinet member.

  • A petition with at least 200 petitions gets referred to the Council Leader and Executive for a response.

  • A petition of 500 signature is referred for a debate at a full council meeting or senior officers are called to provide evidence to a scrutiny committee if the petition asks for this.

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