Latest Public Sector News

13.06.12

Government consultations must give more time

Some policy consultations between central and local government are “rushed”, the National Audit Office has reported. Communication between the two bodies is generally good, but organisational differences can lead to challenges, the report stated.

Central government must consider the operational experience of councils when designing services for local delivery, the report suggests, and consultation should take place early to eliminate the risk of waste or programme failure.

The report found that in two-thirds of consultations by seven departments analysed, less than 60 working days were allowed for local authorities to respond. Departments also issued a disproportionate number just before parliamentary recess or holidays, making it difficult for councils to coordinate their work.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “As the local delivery of services becomes an ever greater concern of central government, how departments and local government communicate with one another becomes all the more important.

“Communication and engagement between central and local government are inherently challenging, especially given the differences in priorities, ways of doing business and pressures. Communications need to be clear, timely and take account of these cultural differences.

“Moreover, consultation needs to be done in a way that shows that central government ‘means it’, with enough time for the results to be meaningful, and for local government views to be reflected in the projects which go forward.

“Only when these issues are addressed can the knowledge of both central and local government be used to best effect to achieve the joined up services that local communities need.”

The NAO also calls for departments to be more systemic to eliminate the risk of poor communication and to improve targeting of emails to relevant audiences.

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