This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 23.
It’s been a busy two months. We’ve been working feverishly on responses to two important consultation processes, both with significant long-term effects. We had scarcely recovered from two Crime and Disorder Act consultations when it was time to knuckle down to the Cambridgeshire Transport Plan. A key theme of all of these was the ticking boxes saying which of a pre-ordained list of items was important, or most important, to us. We had more to say than that, especially as we were disappointed by the choices of categories to a greater or lesser extent.
Douglas de Lacey raises some valid concerns about the nature of such consultations in this issue’s Letters page. Leading questions are a way of getting the answers one wants. They indicate that a strategy is already well developed, rather than genuinely seeking opinions. Huntingdonshire had a tick box for prioritising driving offences, and got a high response for it. South Cambridgeshire didn’t prompt people and they didn’t. We don’t believe this is because views of the districts’ residents are so much at odds with each other.
Central Government is certainly increasing local authority workloads by mandating consultations such as these on a variety of topics. Our hopes of the councils coming to groups like us and inviting genuine participation have not borne fruit, so we will be working with other organisations to seek closer co-operation, at least with the county council, in future.