A council motion is an expression of an authority’s stance and position on an issue, and a resolution to take action of some kind in relation to it. Getting your council to pass one opposing proposal on permitted development for shale gas drilling can be relatively straightforward, and a very effective way to increase pressure on government.
When councils around the country stand up in this way, government takes notice – especially when, as here, councils of its own party are leading the fight. Over 30 councils have already passed motions against permitted development. They include Conservative-led authorities including the county councils of Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, West Sussex, Kent, East Riding, Dorset, Warwickshire and Surrey.
A motion may be proposed at any kind of council – county, borough, unitary authority, city, town, parish, etc. Motions passed by the larger councils have the biggest impact. But a motion passed by any council is a strong public statement of opposition, sending its own clear message to government as well as contributing to a national mosaic of opposition.
This issue bridges political divides. Whatever the opinions of individual councillors on fracking, most agree it is important that local communities have a say in how and whether it takes place on their doorsteps.
What to do to get a motion passed:
- Find a proposer: You need a sympathetic councillor prepared to propose the motion. You may already know one. If not, ask around to see if anyone else does. A personal contact can go a long way. Don’t despair if you don’t have direct or indirect councillor contacts. Identify a likely councillor and approach them.
- And a seconder! The motion will also need to be seconded. Your proposing councillor may be able to enrol someone to do this, or you may be able to help find them. Some councils require you to name both the proposer and seconder when you first submit the motion. Others need only the proposer at that stage, with a named seconder required by the date of debate of the motion.
- Write the motion! We have a template council motion, which has been used and adopted by many councils, and has proved acceptable to councillors of all political stripes. Feel free to use as it is or adapt it. Otherwise obviously do write your own!
- Submit the proposal. This will need to be done by the proposing councillor, and then a date will be set for discussion/debate by the council.
- Debate. Hopefully the motion will be passed. In some cases amendments may be proposed and adopted.
What exactly is a council motion good for?
- Increasing the pressure. Every council which publicly stands against the government proposal increases the pressure on government to back down. It is one of the strongest signals which can be sent.
- Writing to ministers. Usually a council passing this motion will also undertake to write to the ministers behind the proposal calling for the proposal to be withdrawn. Check that this commitment will be included in or with the motion.
- Influencing your MP. The council should also write to all local MPs informing them of the motion, and asking the MPs to themselves write to the relevant ministers to oppose the proposal. MPs read their local press, so If media work takes place around the motion being passed, that will also get the issue under their noses. Raising public awareness. If you make sure the motion gets into the media locally, that will do a great deal to spread the word and broaden the campaign. There are great local campaign media tips both in the Local Media Guide for Campaigners, and from around 26 mins into this campaign video call.
MP follow up
If your local MP has not already committed to taking action over the proposal, you can use your local council motion to persuade them to come on board:
- Organise a meeting with your local MP following the motion. There you can reference the council motion as evidence of the widespread concern about and opposition to the proposal in your area
- You could even put together a cross-party delegation of councillors to meet with the MP, share their concerns, and ask the MP to contact the ministers to express their opposition and ask for the proposal to be withdrawn.