Government consultations could be cut from the default 12-week window to as little as two weeks under plans drawn up by the Cabinet Office.
Ministers said they wanted a more targeted approach with the length of consultations in proportion to the potential impacts of the proposal.
The Cabinet Office document, Consultation Principles - guidance outlines how the existing three-month consultation period will be changed to between two and 12 weeks when appropriate.
The new rules, part of the Civil Service Reform Plan, will take effect from this autumn.
The guidance says “thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than following bureaucratic process” (see more in box below).
It adds that consultation periods should reflect the fact modern technology allows policy makers to gather information more quickly and in a more targeted way.
However, the guidance does state that where smaller, more vulnerable organisations could be affected by proposals, the 12-week consultation period should still be carried out.
Extracts from the guidance
- Timeframes for consultation should be proportionate and realistic to allow stakeholders sufficient time to provide a considered response.
- The amount of time required will depend on the nature and impact of the proposal (for example, the diversity of interested parties or the complexity of the issue, or even external events), and might typically vary between two and 12 weeks.
- In some cases there will be no requirement for consultation at all and that may depend on the issue and whether interested groups have already been engaged in the policy making process. For a new and contentious policy, such as a new policy on nuclear energy, the full 12 weeks may still be appropriate.
- The capacity of the groups being consulted to respond should be taken into consideration.
- The document also outlines guidance on the subjects of consultation, the timing of consultation, making information useful and accessible, transparency and feedback and other practical considerations of consultation exercises.
The guidance replaces the Code of Practice on Consultation issued in July 2008.