The Council's approach to consultation
- Meeting of Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 3rd December, 2019 10.00 am (Item 71.)
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer attached
This report provides an overview of the Council’s approach to consultation with Manchester residents, and next steps for taking this forward.
The Committee considered the report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer that provided an overview of the Council’s approach to consultation with Manchester residents, and next steps for taking this forward.
The main points and themes within the report included: -
· Describing the Council’s current approach to consultations;
· Support from the Corporate Core;
· Recent examples of consultations;
· Issues and challenges identified;
· Consultations within other Greater Manchester Authorities; and
· Next Steps.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were: -
· What information was legally required to be provided when delivering a consultation, and what could be done to ensure this was accessible to ensure members of the public were best engaged with;
· Noting the benefits of social media to engage with residents, consideration needed to be given to utilising all methods of communication with residents;
· Officers should enquire with local Members as to the areas that were to be consulted with, noting that they had extensive local knowledge;
· What was done to engage with hard to reach residents and address under representation;
· Were the comments posted on social media captured and reported; and
· Was there a risk of consultation fatigue setting in, noting the number of national and GM wide consultations undertaken on a wider variety of topics.
The City Solicitor advised that statue required consultations to be run for an appropriate period of time and that they be undertaken at a time when information and proposals were available to allow for an informed discussion on the topic that was to be consulted upon. She stated that every attempt was used to minimise technical and legalistic language so that consultations were accessible.
The Deputy Leader noted the comment from a Member regarding the amount of information that had been provided as part of a consultation exercise by Transport for Greater Manchester. He stated that officers were unable to respond to the specific point raised, however he was aware of the issue and noted that they had been statutory obliged to provide this information. The City Solicitor added that this specific consultation referred to was particularly complex in nature.
The Deputy Leader noted the comment regarding the importance of all methods of communication with residents being used and stated that the Council always allowed for paper submissions to consultations in addition to online responses.
The Committee then heard from Marc Hudson, a resident of Manchester. Mr Hudson said that upon reading the report there was no reference within it to explain how people whose first language was not English were consulted with. He also stated that the report did not address consultations that he described as going badly wrong. He stated that it was unclear from reading the report that the approach was interested in obtaining the views of residents who were being consulted with.
Officers responded by stating that as discussed in the previous agenda item, information could be provided in different languages and formats as and when required, and the online information provided complied with statutory requirements regarding accessibility. He stated that the examples described within the report were provided to demonstrate the complexity and varied nature of consultations undertaken. He stated that the appropriate method of consultation was used at the appropriate time using a range of tools that were available, noting the increased accessibility of technology as a means of communicating and engaging with residents. In specific response to a question on Highways, Officers informed the Committee that a report had recently been submitted to the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee that described the approach to future consultations.
The Director of Strategic Communications commented that a co-production approach to the City Centre Transport Consultation exercise would be undertaken, adding that co-production described the planning and development with all key stakeholders using a service that included residents, business, elected Members and wider interested groups. She informed Members that the consultation would be published on the Council’s website when it formally went live.
The Director of Strategic Communications commented that in recognition that there were sections of the community and geographical areas that were under represented consideration was always given to using the most appropriate channels to reach them. She advised that this included the pre-empting of printed material in other languages, commenting that material could be made available in other languages upon request. Officers stated that responses were regularly reviewed to understand where they were coming from and identify any gaps in an attempt to ensure responses were reflective of the area being consulted with.
The Director of Strategic Communications stated that the comments and tone of those responses provided on social media platforms and email correspondence were reviewed and reported alongside all formal response and provided for the relevant decision maker. She stated that whilst every attempt was made to ensure that online consultations were accessible, using the appropriate language and conform with statutory guidance, tracking exercises were undertaken to understand where people ‘dropped out’ of online consultations, and the feedback and lessons learnt from this would be reviewed to help inform future consultations.
The Committee notes the report.