The Labour government is planning to introduce legislation that will mean all petitions to local Councils will have to correspond to set guidelines - if they don’t then the Councils will not be able to accept them.

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill has 8 pages and over 3,000 words dedicated to the form petitions must now take.

Bath MP Don Foster said, “This Bill is, quite frankly, ludicrous. It will give Councils the chance to throw out any number of petitions because they won’t meet the strict guidelines. These rules are bureaucracy gone mad.

“We need to make it easier for local people to get involved in local politics, not discourage them by making submitting petitions a bureaucratic nightmare.

“Instead of wasting councils’ time and resources, they should be freeing Councils’ hands to provide support to local people during the economic crisis.”

Bath Cllr Steve Hedges (Odd Down, Lib Dem) said, “Here in Bath we have really seen how local campaigns and local petitions can make a difference. Take the recent saving of St Martin’s Garden Primary School - where the sheer number of people against the knocking down of the school forced Conservative Councillors to have a rethink.

“What kind of message will we be sending out to local people if we refuse to accept a petition because it doesn’t meet government guidelines? As local Councillors, we need to encourage people to get involved in local decision making. This Bill can only put people off.”