Cabinet Office produces revised consultation guidance

The Cabinet Office has updated its guidance on how public consultations should be conducted. While aimed at government departments, the principles set out by the Cabinet Office are considered to be of good general application to public bodies. The document is short and to the point. It reinforces hopefully well-understood principles, critically including:

  • Consultations are only part of engagement
  • They should be targeted
  • When planning how to consult, you should take into account the particular needs of the groups being consulted
  • Consultations should last for a proportionate amount of time

On that last point, there is now no reference at all to a three-month period, which at one point was regarded as standard. The previous edition of the Cabinet Office guidance suggested that three months was appropriate for consultations on large and controversial projects, but even that suggestion has now gone. We would still advise clients consulting on large-scale reconfigurations to be cautious about consulting for less than three months, but significantly shorter consultations are entirely appropriate for less complex proposals. Do ask us for advice if you are in doubt.

How Mills & Reeve can help

Clients will be aware that much more detailed guidance is published by NHS England and that we have also produced a detailed briefing paper on public engagement generally which can be sent on request. Our quick guides can help you avoid the pitfalls with our guide to planning a reconfiguration and our ten rules for an effective and lawful public consultation.

Philip Grey, Principal Associate (Barrister)

 

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