OPPOSITION leader Allen Cowles took a swipe at the council’s petition system as he presented his document calling for officials to be held to account on CSE.
The Rotherham Democratic Party councillor switched his campaign to change.org midway through — saying RMBC’s online system was not intuitive and needed improving.
The petition called for the council to ask the National Crime Agency — currently running Operation Stovewood — to open a specific line of inquiry into the conduct of people in authority and determine if criminal charges were appropriate.
He added: “We collected nearly 1,000 signatures. You might suggest that this is not a good number and shows a lack of concern from the public.
“However, I have learned a lot about petitions and would not agree with that conclusion.
“First, we tried collecting signatures solely using the council website and its petitions facility. This proved to be time-consuming and simply raised frustration among those who tried to use it.
“The general complaint was that it was deliberate to prevent people raising petitions.
“However, having used it myself, I would suggest it’s poorly designed, not intuitive and needs replacing with something more fit for purpose.”
A threshold of 2,000 names are required for a petition to lead to a council debate.
Cllr Cowles collected 973 names — 21 via RMBC’s website, 627 on change.org and the rest on paper.
“Change.org is more intuitive and offers global reach, if required,” he said. “People were clear that they wanted those who were aware of CSE to be made accountable.
“I would suggest if you want to run a petition where you really need public support, don’t do it during a pandemic and choose spring or summer, when the weather might be kinder.
“I’m clear in my mind that had we not had the virus problem, 2,000 signatures would have been easily achievable.
“The point is this can has been kicked down the road for far too long. I urge you to support the aim of this and request the NCA to open a line of investigation immediately.”
Cllr Jenny Andrews, chairing the council meeting last Wednesday (3), said officers would respond to Cllr Cowles by March 17.