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GERSHON - FEWER, BUT BETTER PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS

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The Consultation Institute has concluded that the Gershon Report on public sector efficiency has major implications...
The Consultation Institute has concluded that the Gershon Report on public sector efficiency has major implications for the growing culture of public and stakeholder consultations.

In a briefing paper published today, the institute considers why the report is positively good news for consultations, but it also highlights key challenges that lie ahead.

For example, the chancellor's spending plans, and the heavy civil service job losses are based on assumptions that e-government investments made in recent years can start to deliver real efficiency savings as traditional ways of communications are substituted by new technology-driven techniques. For public consultations, this may mean a reduced emphasis on conventional methods and more e-consultation, and the Institute warns that the digital divide is still an issue and can impact the inclusivity of public engagement.

Rhion Jones, programme director for the Consultation Institute, and author of the report comments:

'New technology holds tremendous promise for consultation - but it has to be used with care. There should be no question of replacing tried and tested methods with e-surveys, e-discussions forums and web polling - they should be used alongside each other.'

Another major issue is the desperate need for better co-ordination of consultations between various public agencies. Mr Jones points out that different departments within a single local authority are frequently unaware of overlapping consultations affecting the same stakeholders. And Inter-agency consultations are still rare.

'No wonder we have consultation fatigue in places' says Mr Jones.

'The Gershon report is strong on sharing best practice and obliging public agencies to work together more closely. This should accelerate the push towards better co-ordinated consultations with the public.'

Overall, the institute forecasts fewer consultation exercises, better funded, more professionally managed and far better co-ordinated.

Full copies of the institute's paper can be found here: www.consultationinstitute.org/Gershon report response

Notes

The Gershon Report was published on 12 July and was relied upon by the chancellor of the exchequer for his announcement of£20bn savings from increased public sector efficiencies by 2008.

The Consultation Institute is a newly-formed organisation, with a mission to promote the highest standards of public, stakeholder and employee consultation by initiating research, publications and specialist events in order to disseminate best practice and improve subsequent decision-making. Over 300 public and private sector staff have already attended specialist seminar/workshops, and the Institute has already established itself as the authoritative voice of consultation professionals in the UK.

Rhion Jones is Programme Director of the Institute, and is an acknowledged authority on Consultations as well as on Customer Relations Management. He is the author of 22 White Papers on such subjects as The Public Service Ethos, e-Government and Customer Satisfaction, and in 2002 wrote the widely-used CRM in the Public Sector Report for The Hewson Group.

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