Thursday, November 26, 2009

Government e-petitions give power to the people

Government plans to roll out e-petitions across the UK could offer people a real say in the democratic process, a conference has heard.

The legislation to make e-petitions compulsory for all councils in the UK comes into force in April 2010.

It could result in a national e-petition scheme and force Westminster to take more notice of people power, thinks web guru Tom Steinberg.

One of the biggest problems with the Number 10 e-petition scheme is that it bypasses parliament meaning that there is little obligation to follow through on the campaigns raised.

"Whether or not it will get better is down to the government," said Mr Steinberg, who is now a digital advisor to the Conservative party.

Despite criticisms of the Downing Street system, it has proved popular, clocking over 10 million signatures to date.

Parliament is currently considering opening its own e-petition system but there has been one major stumbling block, according to Mr Steinberg.

"They just don't seem to believe that it can be done as cheaply as it can," said Mr Steinberg.

It is likely there is also resistance from MPs, unsure of whether they want a closer relationship with citizens.

Matthew Mannian is democratic services team leader for the London borough of Lambeth and helped roll out its e-petitions scheme.


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