Managing Petitions and Pro-Forma Representations during Consultations
Talking to our Local Authority customers one of the most time-consuming submissions they receive and administer during a public consultation is a petition.
Typically a petition will fall into two types:
- A true petition: i.e. one document or letter containing multiple signatories
- A pro-forma representation: i.e. multiple copies of the same document or letter containing individual signatories on each copy
As part of our e-Consultation service we’ve developed a system that makes administering submissions, representations and responses in these two formats more efficient and less time-consuming. [more]
The true petition is simpler to administer. If the petition is a single document all the signatories can be assigned in the e-Con system to this document as part of a single submission. The petition is assigned in the e-Con system to one person or to one agent who acts as the representative for all the signatories listed in the petition document. Consequently any responses made by the Council to the representations made within the submitted petition need only to be addressed directly to the lead representative/agent logged in the contact database within the administration system.
Even if the petition has been submitted on behalf of an organisation (such as a school, a Parish Council or a charity) an individual within that organisation must be identified in the administration system as the point of contact for ongoing communication with the Council. Our system allows you to identify how many signatories there are on the original petition and you can scan and store the original document in the system if the petition needs to be evidenced at any stage in the engagement/planning process.
The pro-forma representation is more problematic (and often more contentious!). Each copy of the letter is a unique submission and therefore each signatory is a unique point of contact to which a response by the Council must be addressed. As part of our ongoing support services we can help you to administer pro-forma representations and our advice for how to optimise the use of the administration system is as follows:
- Establish that all the letters submitted are identical (people could have added extra comments or changed them in some other way). Any that are different must be separated out and entered individually.
- For all those submissions which are identical, for every person who has sent one in each one must be entered on to the contact database (there’s no way round this) so:
- Create a new Person Category for the pro-forma;
- Add all the people to the database if they’re not already there;
- Assign all the people to this new Person Category.
3. Create a new submission for one of the people and add however many representations are required. (Note that the pro-forma may contain many individual representations but they must all be entered under one submission)
4. Remove that person from the Person Category (to avoid duplication in the system)
5. Tell us the Person Category name and the ID of the first representation entered.
At stage 5 we will clone the submission and all its representations to all the other people in that Person Category and create a blank Response record for each original representation which will be linked to all identical representations. Therefore each group of identical reps gets one blank response which is completed once by you and then automatically assigned to the relevant representation.
There is no additional charge for this service; it forms part of your annual support and maintenance agreement. But please take advantage of this service as it will save you time and money and reduce the risk of errors being entered or duplicated in the system.
Remember: if each signatory of the pro-forma representation has identified how they wish to be notified of the Council’s response the administration system can format the response for each Person Category as a response on the website, as an email or as a letter.
In adopting this approach the Council can ensure that the petition or pro-forma representation is treated objectively as a valid submission in the consultation process and not subjectively as a document that is perhaps intended to lobby or influence the Council in how it determines its policy or response to the issue being consulted upon.