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Badger culling row highlights how attacking a consultation is used by campaigners

Defra’s decision to interfere with badger cull licensing could be unlawful, new research suggests.

The death knell is sounding for the government’s controversial badger culls.

The government launched its badger control policy stating that it would be science-led – but even so the estimated benefit to bovine TB incidence in cattle was small. Importantly, it was also reliant on satisfying strict licensing criteria.

A cull that delivers no benefit, or that makes the bovine TB situation worse, is not only a waste of time and money; it could also be unlawful because badgers are legally protected. The 1992 Protection of Badgers Act permits licensed culling only for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease.

Licensing changes

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said that its culls are lawful. However, this claim has been undermined by Defra’s wrongful interference with licensing criteria and by static or worsening bovine TB prevalence in the cull zones.

Secretary of state Liz Truss’s decision to change three of the licensing criteria led to an extensive roll-out of the culls (from three to 32 areas).

These changes were put to the public as proposals, and views were sought in a public consultation in August 2015.

The three proposals were: to extend the culling period; to reduce the minimum cull area size; and to remove the 70 percent land access requirement. None of these changes made sense in terms of disease prevention or reduction.

Furthermore, Defra’s only ‘evidence’ (in relation to the second proposal) was swiftly and adeptly dismissed by the British Veterinary Zoological Society, which said: “We […] consider that the conclusion is drawn on the basis of unsafe assumptions and cannot be relied upon.”

Strong opposition

There were almost 1400 responses to the public consultation. The vast majority of responses were opposed to badger culling. Of those who answered the questions, and expressed opposition or support, 92-94 percent were against the proposals themselves.

The argument against the proposals was weighty and convincing. By contrast the argument for the proposals was flimsy and feeble. Respondents homed in on Defra’s ‘assumptions’ and non-existent evidence, and Defra admitted later that it had made no calculations about a resultant impact on bTB incidence.

While wildlife and welfare organisations – representing millions – voiced their opposition, many farmers and farming organisations failed to respond, and the National Farmers Union missed the deadline by two weeks.

Of the farmers who did respond, more were against reducing the cull zone size than in favour; 32 percent were against extending the cull period; and 41 percent were against removing the land access requirement.

Ignored responses

Defra produced no evidence that Liz Truss’s decision was informed by the responses.

Moreover, it’s clear from the responses that Defra did not take due account of, or give genuine and conscientious consideration to, the consultation outcome – as stipulated by the Aarhus Convention and the ‘duty to consult’ requirements under common law, known as the Sedley requirements.

It also seems that Natural England, the National Farmers Union, and some farmers had been tipped the wink about Truss’s ‘decision’ before she had even made it: why else would Natural England monitors be conducting biosecurity visits in Devon – where a licence application had been refused a few months earlier – six days before Truss had cleared the Summary of Responses to the Consultation and the revised Guidance to Natural England?

Science was cast aside and a strategy to prevent the spread of disease was abandoned while the aim of killing badgers more easily and in far greater numbers was pursued.

One shrewd respondent said: “Despite the veneer of the licensing process, I am very concerned that the hidden agenda behind all three of these proposals is the virtually uncontrolled killing of badgers. This is a dreadfully damaging approach, not only for badgers but for farming and wildlife as a whole.”

Institutional landowners

In 2011 – before Defra had decided to go ahead with the policy – the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) was clearly confident that the National Trust would allow culling on its land.

In a letter to Caroline Spelman (the then Environment Secretary), CLA President William Worsley said: “It would be particularly useful, if, in the first instance, licences could be granted to a number of the big institutional landowners, such as the National Trust, the Church Commissioners and the Duchies.”

However, as it turned out, the National Trust would not play ball. It declared in its response that: “We do not support a roll out of the culls.

“Moving away from the evidence base provided by the RBCT risks making the disease more prevalent, not less […] We will not allow the extension of culling to our land. This includes not allowing it on National Trust land that is leased to tenants.” The other landowners mentioned by Worsley have neither confirmed nor denied whether they are involved.

Removed obstacles

The Bovine TB Eradication Advisory Group for England, which advises Defra ministers on bTB policy, referred to the reluctance of “institutional landowners” in its response.

It was also reported in the Farmers Weekly on 3 September 2015 that a Devon farmer “described the sign-up process as ‘challenging’ because the National Trust – one of Britain’s biggest landowners – still refuses to allow cullers on to its land.”

Perhaps it was this reluctance by the National Trust along with the cull’s general unpopularity with landowners that led to Defra launching its consultation and removing the strict criteria – because their removal was essential to achieving an extensive cull roll-out.

Pointless slaughter

Badgers are a native, legally protected species and yet they are being massacred in these culls in their tens of thousands. More than 34,000 have already been killed and by the end of this year another 42,000 could be gone.

Furthermore, this killing is being carried out according to licensing criteria that have been enfeebled by the government to such an extent that “preventing the spread of disease” as a purpose – according to the law – is no longer credible. Indeed, recent data have confirmed the futility of culling.

The government was warned, by a number of respondents, that changing the licence criteria would have a negative effect, wiping out any chance of achieving disease control benefits. Unsurprisingly, this prediction has been borne out.

Open letter

After analysing data released by the government in September 2018, senior vets and animal welfare experts challenged claims by the farming minister George Eustice that the culls were working.

In an open letter to the Observer, the vets and experts said: “The data upon which Mr Eustice bases his statement provide no evidence whatsoever for his claimed ‘reductions in TB cases in Somerset and Gloucestershire’.”

The letter also expressed reservations about Defra’s method of analysis. The vets and experts stated: “Put simply, there are approximately the same proportion of bTB affected herds now, as there were before culling started.

“Badger culling has not resulted in a decrease in bTB in cattle in cull zones, for the prevalence remains unchanged. Any statement made to the contrary is simply not true.”

Moreover, recent data suggest that the incidence and prevalence of infection among cattle herds in the Gloucestershire central cull zone, which has now been subject to six years of culling, is rising significantly.

Uphold the law

A wealth of evidence disputes Defra’s claim that its farmer-led culls are for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease. Getting rid of the licensing criteria that provided (an albeit tenuous) justification to cull, ignoring the warnings about the impact this would have, disregarding data that showed no benefit, and – at the same time – falsely claiming success, are the actions of a government department that has lost its moral compass.

‘Badger control’ is looking less like a policy and more like a conspiracy – with the wholesale slaughter of badgers its one and only goal.

Badgers are protected by law, and that law should be respected, observed and upheld – which is why, instead of escorting cull contractors, or sending in drones to observe protesters, police would be better advised to knock on the door of Number Ten.

Disagreement between farmers and animal rights activists have made this long-running row a brilliant case study in the use and abuse of consultation as a weapon of campaigning. This article is a new example – on an issue where people will have their own opinions.

It is a strong argument against the Government’s decision to extend the roll-out of badger culling. But note the writer’s criticism of a 2015 consultation where, she claims 92% of respondents has opposed the proposals. She argues that DEFRA had not taken these views into account, and that it was in breach of the Gunning Four principle of conscientious consideration. 

Now, it would have been open for opponents to mount a legal challenge if it had a strong enough case – but it would have had to do so within 3 months. It didn’t do so, and complaining now in 2018 is substantially too late. She also quotes the Aarhus Convention, though lawyers would immediately say that it only applies to Infrastructure projects!

But these are quibbles. The main learning point for consultors is to realise that campaigners or opponents will crawl all over a consultation output in search of errors in methodology or poor practice. For consultees, there is perhaps a realisation that a public consultation is their opportunity to make their case, mobilise their supporters and insist on a fair process.

What’s your view? Do campaigners purposely analyse consultations in search of errors and poor practice to enhance their argument? Does consultation on important matters dilute the bigger picture? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Friday 23 November 2018 in The Ecologist. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

Using virtual reality during public consultations on infrastructure projects

Immersive technologies like virtual reality can be a powerful communications tool during public consultations on infrastructure projects, say Andy Thomas and Alex Southern.

Digital transformation in infrastructure is bringing an end to the days of public consultations in dusty town halls littered with maps and plans for new schemes.

Immersive technologies can add impressive realism to the visualisations of future projects, which can be a powerful communication tool during public consultations to help people make more informed decisions about what is being proposed.

With two-dimensional plans hard to interpret, it’s often a natural response for local communities to be sceptical about the impacts of big new projects. Visualisations and fly-throughs are now frequently used during public consultations as a way to help people understand the designs and impacts of proposals.

While these visualisations are useful, they follow a pre-defined camera path. By using immersive technologies companies can go a step further, giving stakeholders an accurate glimpse of completed future projects. With virtual reality (VR), for example, it is possible to explore wherever you want to go. People can look at a proposed scheme from different angles, at different times of day and with many more types of interaction.

Cable-free VR headsets work well for public use, providing an instant sense of scale that a 2D plan or 3D model on-screen cannot reproduce. When people see the whole picture and understand what is planned, it can increase the likelihood of them switching to support proposals.

The ability to allow stakeholders to explore what a finished station, road or high-speed rail route will look like using VR is an innovative way to explain the options and potential impacts of new schemes. But adding acoustic technology alongside visualisations can really bring a project to life.

Sound demonstrations help people understand what planned infrastructure changes will sound like by listening to ‘without’ and ‘with’ comparisons. Concerns about noise levels can often contribute to public opposition for new infrastructure. This is partly because communicating changes to the acoustic environment, both increases and decreases, is notoriously difficult.

Traditionally, noise maps are used to help explain the noise impacts of a proposed scheme. Geographical maps overlaid with different colours that indicate changes in decibel, sound maps are informative but also difficult to understand.

Sound demonstrations combined with visualisations can simulate likely noise levels at exact locations, allowing stakeholders to both hear and see the impact of planned changes on familiar places. For a new road scheme, for example, it is possible to demonstrate how noisy traffic will sound after the introduction of new conditions such as noise barriers, quieter road surfaces or reduced speed limits.

AECOM recently worked with Highways England to deliver sound demonstrations during the public consultation for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down improvement project past Stonehenge. The first time this technology was applied to a major UK road scheme as part of statutory consultation, this award-winning use of acoustic technology enabled Highways England to clearly communicate predicted noise levels for the scheme, leading the way for this type of approach to major infrastructure projects.

Using immersive technologies to make the noise and visual impacts of infrastructure easier to understand can make proposals more accessible to a wider audience. Technologies can be selected according to the project brief, budget and likely demographic of stakeholders, giving users different levels of interaction and involvement.

The innovative application of sound and VR can help allay fears about proposed infrastructure and efficiently communicate the facts about a project to stakeholders. But they can also inform the planning and design process, providing helpful resources of information as projects progress through the planning process.

Given the importance of gaining public buy-in for major infrastructure projects, using technology can be a powerful way to engage with stakeholders and help dispel misunderstandings that can often exist about the likely impacts of a proposal. The approach is about communicating proposed changes transparently, making plans more accessible to a wider demographic. Using immersive technologies to deliver accurate visual and sound experiences is the way forward for public consultations.

What’s your view? Are public consultations in line with the times? How can we maximise the use of technology and innovation to improve our consultation offering? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Monday 19 November 2018 in Infrastructure Intelligence. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

Sir John Armitt: “Engaging with the public early on infrastructure proposals is essential”

National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt says that the infrastructure sector needs to engage more effectively with the public to get its message across.

National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair Sir John Armitt is on record as saying that public engagement on infrastructure will be essential to the delivery of future projects. He has described this as one of the biggest challenges for the sector, but one that must be addressed.

Given that the public is ultimately one of the country’s biggest investors in infrastructure – whether through taxation, pension fund investment or directly through paying to use the final product – Armitt says that the industry needs to do more to make the public aware of the challenges it faces and the potential options available for development.

“The issue is how do you increase the acceptability of projects in a country where there is a guaranteed resistance to almost any project,” said Armitt. “There will always be a group of people who will say “not in my back yard”, but my argument that I have been making for several years to the profession is that if you don’t get out there and talk about it, explain it, be honest with people and show them what choices and options you are having to deal with, ask for their input about what they would be happy with or not and explain to them what the impact of doing nothing is, it’s not surprising that you get this resistance. As long as you have got resistance from the public, you are going to get resistance from the politicians,” he said.

Don’t leave public out of the loop

Armitt said that it was important to be clear about why infrastructure development is taking place and who was going to benefit from it. “Who are we doing this for at the end of the day? We are not doing this for ourselves we are doing it for the public. The public are the consumers, the users, they are also the payers, so how come they get left out of the loop of debate and consideration?” said Armitt.

“So, you need to involve the public and be much more upfront and get them engaged from the beginning. Once you do that then you stand more chance of having a better solution and one that is going to be satisfactory and meet people’s objectives, as well as one that is likely to garner political support because the politicians see that the public are buying into this idea,” he says.

Armitt stressed the importance of active and early engagement with local people, often before a route of scheme had even been agreed. “One of the difficult things is when do you start that process?” he said. “High Speed 1 looked at 100 different options, but it looked at them prior and then announced that this is going to be the route. People criticised British Rail at the time for announcing several different route options through Kent, so we had the whole of Kent in uproar, but at the end of a couple of years of going round the villages talking to everyone about the impacts of the different choices, people were keen to see a decision made and that made it easier for government to choose the route,” said Armitt.

“You need to involve the public and be much more upfront and get them engaged from the beginning. Once you do that then you stand more chance of having a better solution and one that will meet people’s objectives and be more likely to garner political support.” Sir John Armitt, chair, National Infrastructure Commission

As well as early engagement, openness was crucial when talking to local people affected by development, Armitt said. “Project sponsors need to take a lead. They are the people who need to get out there first and start talking and accept that they may be talking not actually with a line on the map even but actually say ‘this is our challenge, we’ve got to get from there to there but tell us what do you see as being the pros and cons of the different choices,’” he said. “If you are prepared to take people into your confidence at an early stage, not treat them as idiots and ask them to get engaged, that seems to me to be a much more sensible way of going about it,” he said.

Armitt was asked if he thought that there was a connection between that type of early involvement (or the lack of it) and taking people into the loop and the reputation that the industry has – some of it deserved, some of it undeserved – amongst the general public as an uncaring sector interested only in itself?

“Absolutely. When I was at Costain and we did the Newbury bypass, when we finally got on site the site manager went out knocking on the doors of all the nearest houses and said ‘can we help you in any way’, would it be useful if we came round and washed the windows on a regular basis to offset the impact the project was going to have’”. These things made a big difference.

“I was also out at a project a couple of weeks ago where that had been enormous resistance to the development of the old Upper Hayford airfield site. One developer had to sell off that opportunity in 2008 and they had total resistance to everything they were trying to do. The guys who came in immediately went out and started talking to the people about what they are trying to do, why they’d bought the site and listened to what people’s concerns were and so the first thing that they built was a school.

“The next thing they did was to take the old warehouses and the buildings there and spruced them up and made them available for small business to start to go into. So, all of a sudden, this horrible housing scheme that was going to be dumped on their doorstep became a place where jobs were being made available and there was a brand-new school and so the reaction of people to that development is now a much more positive one,” Armitt explained.

Growing importance of people power

That public desire for consultation is only going to intensify in the age of social media and the internet and this could create a very interesting dynamic in terms of what people want to see for the future and in exercising their right to a say. Armitt was asked how he sees the growing importance of people power in the future in respect of infrastructure development.

“There’s a lot more knowledge out there these days and also let’s not forget that much of the funding for infrastructure is the public’s money and it makes them the ultimate stakeholder,” he said. “Government and opinion formers are increasingly recognising this too. The infrastructure we need to give people a better quality of life is one that needs to be paid for and people think that government has the money because it has the ability to borrow, but even when it borrows who’s paying the interest? Who is paying for that borrowing? We are.

“We all pay at the end of the day, so all this infrastructure belongs one way or another to the general public and therefore the engagement of them as the ultimate stakeholder in what we are planning to do, why we are intending to do it, what happens if we don’t do it – which I think is a question that very often doesn’t get asked – is vitally important and a lot of politicians are starting to get that,” said Armitt.

What’s your view? What can the infrastructure industry do more of to consult with the public? How do you see the growing importance of people power in the future in respect of infrastructure development? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Thursday 29 November 2018 in Infrastructure Intelligence. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

 

 

Bath and Somerset Council delay clean air zone decision after over 8,400 people respond to consultation

A decision on Bath’s clean air zone will be delayed after an unprecedented 8,400 people had their say on the proposals.

Bath and North East Somerset Council could be at risk of legal challenge if it fails to take into account all of the concerns – which ranged the emotional to the technical, and spanned issues including rat running, the impact on businesses and the wider economy, and claims the charges were a “stealth tax” that will hit the poor the hardest.

The council has been ordered by the government to prepare a final plan for a scheme to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels by Monday, December 31 and cabinet members were due to make a decision on Tuesday, December 18.

But it also needs to consider the impacts any measures may have, particularly where they may be perceived to unfairly penalise residents and businesses.

A report to next week’s cabinet meeting says: “Failing to fully understand the outcomes from the public consultation when making a significant decision which could affect the travel choices of a large number of people within Bath and North East Somerset and across the wider area and would leave the authority at risk of legal challenge.”

Nearly a fifth of the 8,400 responses came in the last few days of the six-week consultation, which closed on Monday, November 26. The number is thought to be a record for B&NES Council, and is on a par with much larger cities like Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton.

In all, more than 1.7 million words were submitted in the open text questions. Responses were up to 64 pages long.

A report to next week’s cabinet meeting says the comments deserve a considered response, so more time is needed to fully analyse the feedback and undertake further statistical and financial modelling work.

Councillor Bob Goodman said: “We have been delighted with the response.

“Clearly our consultation has encouraged a real airing of views and stimulated a serious debate about this crucial issue facing our city and wider area.

“I have been to a great many of the public events and listened to hundreds of people’s views.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in the consultation whether that is talking to me directly, attending meetings, answering the questionnaire or sending in letters and emails.

“All the responses have been thoughtful and they have covered a number of issues.

“These include concerns about rat running and parking in residential areas outside the proposed zone, suggestions for a bigger zone, and proposals for mitigations for those residents and businesses most impacted by the proposal.”

The clean air zone is intended to drive behavioural change. The council is proposing to charge:

  • £9 for higher emission, non-compliant cars, taxis and LGVs/vans
  • £100 for higher emission, non-compliant buses, coaches and HGVs

Charges would apply once in every 24-hour period (midnight to midnight) when entering or driving in the zone. This would apply 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Suggestions in the consultation included changing the proposed charges, public transport measures, infrastructure improvements and development of low-emission transport modes.

The cabinet report says council officers will present a report as soon as the consultation, financial and additional air quality modelling is concluded.

Members will receive an update in March.

The Government has directed B&NES Council to improve the air quality in Bath by no later than 2021.

Council leader Tim Warren said: “Our aim is to be compliant with the minimum detrimental effect upon our residents, while maintaining and growing the successful economy in the city.

“Our residents and businesses have taken the time to speak to us and they deserve a considered response.

“In order to help shape our final decision we need to use these responses and secure the best package of support measures.

“To do this we will be taking into account people’s strongly-expressed views and concerns.”

What’s your view? Do authorities and decision makers have the right to ignore the views of participants during the consultation process? How does failing to fully understand the outcomes of public consultation exercises when making a significant decision leave authorities at risk of legal challenge? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Tuesday 11December 2018 on SomersetLive. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

 

 

 

Consultation as an alternative to a second Referendum? Why it’s not the answer!

We live in extraordinary political times – so fluid that this article may be obsolete faster than anything else ever written by the Institute.

However – right now – there is an emerging awareness that our representative democracy has blundered into an impasse. A destructive stalemate where usually-closed minds are casting around for innovative solutions they would never normally contemplate. They need something – anything … anything …to settle a divisive issue.

Most desperate are those who promised to abide by a Referendum result but are unhappy with Mrs May’s deal – and that includes both Remainers as well as Leavers. The People’s vote is attractive to many, but carries risks for all sides.

So suddenly we hear voices suggesting that maybe we ought to assert the primacy of Parliament and it should organise a Grand Parliamentary Consultation?

That way, it can avoid another Referendum. After all, consultation is not a vote. But it does allow all the arguments to be heard and assessed openly and transparently.

On BBC Question Time, Stella Creasy MP has suggested a Citizens’ Assembly such as was used successfully to break the logjam on the emotive abortion issue in the Republic of Ireland, leading to a successful referendum for change.

On Andrew Neil’s This Week programme, Liz Kendall repeated the suggestion. Others have talked about local consultations in every constituency to advise MPs on which way to cast their votes. Enthusiasts for public involvement claim that ‘everyone can have a say’. Public participation without the crude outcome of a Yes/No vote. The country’s divisions, they claim, can start to be healed through the therapeutic process of dialogue.

Sceptical?  Maybe with good reasons:

  1. Consultation requires decision-makers to have an open mind. The proposals are meant to be at a formative. Neither realistically apply in this case. The odd MP might be willing to be persuaded but many of them – like the rest of us – have long since made up their minds. And the Government’s mind? Whichever Party is in power, it may well be influenced by its electoral calculations. Gunning One is a problem;
  2. Gunning Two requires sufficient information about the proposal. But it is the information war that bedevilled the 2016 Referendum. From ‘fake news’ to ‘project fear’ one side protests at the distortions of the other. A good consultation, in self-corrective mode, seeks to eliminate such differences and tries to secure a debate that’s based upon as much consensual information as possible. In this case – not a chance!
  3. Although the Gunning Principle of time may technically be accommodated, the true sense of the requirement is that there is enough opportunity for people to assess the arguments and then contribute. Opting for a sample-based dialogue method would leave too many feeling they were excluded. Enabling everyone to participate could generate more data than anyone could analyse and absorb in a hurry…
  4. Giving conscientious consideration to the output of the consultation would require a super-human act of political forbearance. Consultation rarely provides a decisive answer so someone has to carefully weigh up the evidence of people’s views and arguments. Not sure EU membership has ever been a matter of making fine judgements – more the brute force of values-based considerations;
  5. More important maybe than the Gunning principles is that wheeling out a consultation right now might discredit the process. It is argued that politicians should not misuse the consultation process because they find decision-making difficult. For many people, the 2016 vote brought the idea of Referendums into disrepute. Might the use of consultation in this toxic environment damage the consultation concept in much the same way?

Consultation is a great technique for assisting the decision-making process in lots of situations. But it’s not appropriate everywhere. If a Citizens’ Jury were, improbably, to come down decisively in favour of one argument or another, it would prompt endless scrutiny of its membership. Who were they? Who chose them? What were they told? By Whom? And on and on. Closure? Not likely!

In hindsight, it might well have been better to hold a consultation in 2016 rather than a Referendum. In a consultation one can say ‘Yes …but’, ‘Yes …if’, ‘No… at this price’ or ‘No at any price’ and all shades in between.  Referendums allow no such nuances, but that is the path that Parliament took, and no doubt now regrets.

Can it now turn to consultation to rescue it from this folly? Probably not. And yet, who knows. In the current climate, all the other options might prove even worse.

Best of a bad job? Least worst option? Let’s hope not!

What’s your view? Are public consultations appropriate when making political decisions? Is there an alternative to public consultations such as Citizens Jurys and if so what are their strengths and weaknesses? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Friday 07 December 2018 on the Consultation Institute. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

Consultation toolkits – how useful are they?

Not a week goes by without someone asking us if we know of some good examples of a consultation toolkit. Now it is true that there are a lot of good toolkits available but it would be wise to not go toolkit-by-default too soon.

Wanting to adopt a common standard consultation practice is admirable and understandable, as many public bodies struggle staying financially afloat, but you need to make sure that your consultation and engagement staff are professionally trained and have the right skills and knowledge to steer you through a controversial, lengthy and expensive consultation exercise. We see it all over the UK; well experienced civil servants, who are experts in their fields, having to work with limited resources, or even worse, facing the threat of restructure. Enter the toolkit!

One of the challenges of toolkits is striking a balance between two conflicting pressures. One is scale and the other is the ease of use. If you build something concise and easy to access, people will use it but will often fail to find the answers they want. But if you build a large, truly comprehensive toolkit, fewer people use it. This dilemma has been a difficulty for many.

Producing a consultation toolkit should not replace but rather complement your staff training. Building solely on your toolkit you run the risk of not knowing how to handle specific problems in your consultation exercise that do not feature in your toolkit. A toolkit is not the magic solution to all of your problems, but it is part of the solution.  So bear in mind that before embarking on building a toolkit of your own, consult the users of it to see if it meets their requirements.

Public bodies throughout the UK are facing one financial setback after another so resorting to consultation toolkits seems like a smart investment but, in the long term, might turn out to have accomplished the opposite; the simplification of what is an incredibly delicate and intricate consultation process, which in reality needs a custom-built approach, benefiting both consultors and consultees.

What’s your view? Do you have any best or bad practice examples of consultation toolkits you want to share? What should a consultation toolkit look like? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Monday 12 September 2016 2018 on the Consultation Institute. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

EFL TV deal: Several Championship clubs ‘gravely concerned’ at the lack of consultation

Several Championship clubs are “gravely concerned” by the EFL board’s announcement it has approved a new domestic broadcasting rights deal.

Club officials met on Tuesday to discuss the £595m five-year agreement that has been signed with Sky Sports.

They say the deal has been done without them being fully consulted.

“Nineteen clubs from the league wrote to the EFL asking them not to sign the deal and to engage in meaningful discussions,” said a statement.

The statement, from “several unnamed clubs”, said they felt they had been “ignored”.

“Championship clubs are gravely concerned that the EFL board has announced it has approved a new long-term domestic broadcasting rights deal,” it said.

“Our issues are not with Sky, who we respect and value, but with the way in which the proposed agreement has been negotiated and explained to clubs.

“We remain convinced that any solution to the broadcasting of EFL competitions can only be on the basis of protecting attendances and securing the financial position of all our 72 clubs.

“There is a calm determination within Championship clubs to ensure the matter is not left here.”

The deal, which runs from the start of next season until May 2024, represents a 35% increase on the previous contract.

‘The deal allows our clubs the benefit of financial security’ – the EFL view

Before the clubs’ statement, EFL interim chair Debbie Jevans had said she would review how the league discusses future deals.

“Concluding these negotiations has indeed been challenging, as is the case when managing a diverse group of stakeholders, and the board took on board the comments and frustrations voiced by a number of clubs and has committed to reviewing the way the league engages with its clubs to ensure that we move forward in a collaborative way in the future,” she said.

It is understood Derby County, Leeds United and Aston Villa are among the clubs opposed to the new contract.

“The deal we have entered into with Sky, after fully testing the current market through our external advisors, allows our clubs the benefit of financial security which was an absolute priority for us throughout this process,” said EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey.

“It is a partnership that, as well as having the necessary financial benefits, provides the EFL with the platform to maximise reach and exposure for its competitions, alongside providing further opportunities for clubs to monetise some of those games not broadcast on television.”

What’s your view? Can authorities and decision makers do what they like or is it important to ensure that their stakeholders are fully consulted on decisions effecting them? Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Tuesday 20 November 2018 on the BBC. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.