More than 80 per cent of councils use them, says Involving the Public, topped in the popularity stakes only by surveys, which are used by 88 per cent. What is surprising however, is the number of authorities who spontaneously decried public meetings as a way of consulting when responding to the survey, yet continued to call them, although fewer plan to use them in the future.
Questionnaires, focus groups and user panels, can be far more fruitful ways to consult, says the report, which looks at the three ways of involving the public - market research, consultation, and participation.
The importance attached to consultation by managers is growing, it concludes, with 63 per cent thinking it was essential or very important to have done so in the past year, but 80 per cent envisaging it will be so in the coming year.
The report has a section on the role of members in consultation, which is of course central. It reminds officers that this should be the case, and gives useful suggestions for councillors, concentrating on allowing sufficient time and budget, finding innovative ways of working themselves, and feeding their own local knowledge into the process.
Aimed at practitioners, this loose leafed, organic document, also covers equality of access, and the importance of clear internal communications.
- Copies, priced at£35 for local authorities, are available from LGMB
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