Council committee reassured consultations are transparent and carefully targeted

Bedford Borough Hall

Bedford Borough Council consultations are carefully targeted and the outcomes are “transparent”, a meeting has heard.

Each council consultation has a different target audience, so the council needs to work out which groups of people will be interested in the subject, and how they can best be reached and engaged in the consultation.

A report presented to the Budget and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (7 July) said this process is called ‘stakeholder mapping’.

Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green Party, Castle Ward), wondered if the mapping process is ever done once the consultation is already underway.

Mark Minion, chief officer of customer, communities and front office, replied: “The stakeholder mapping should be done at the start of the exercise.

“You should have a good feeling and sense about who your audiences should be.

“There can well be on occasion that when you get through that process you are referred to different groups, or different interests.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but my advice to the service areas is if they do identify other groups is to contact them,” he said.

Councillor Bywater asked: “Would it be possible for council officers, or executive members, who had a particular interest in an outcome going a certain way, to learn the outcome as part of the process early on, and then influence a change of methods?”

Mr Minion replied: “I wouldn’t suggest that would be appropriate, but if you’ve got specific examples I will certainly look at that particular consultation.”

Cllr David Sawyer (LibDems, De Parys Ward), said: “Doesn’t [the report to the Executive] include a synopsis of what was required to do the consultation?

“So we’re being very transparent here,” he said.

Mr Minion said: “The advice I would always give to service areas is include every response that they receive, whether it’s pro- or anti- what’s being proposed.

“The only things we would exclude in those verbatim responses would be personal information that could identify an individual.

“But all of the consultation reports that the team supports include all of the responses,” he said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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