Have your say in how government consults you

I have observed major issues with Irelands development process during my time as an active citizen in the past 8 years.

The government and developers approach is generally to plan and then find out how to manipulate the system and people to allow their plan come to fruition.

There is also an apathy within the public when there are consultations. Very often I will attend an open meeting for a county development plan and be the only one there. That is a disappointing indication of how people see their role in their community, county and country.

The public tend to react when it comes to development. How do we get people to engage proactively?

There is now an open public consultation process on Principles to guide public engagement on policy and services development. This is an opportunity to tell government how to facilitate your engagement in the development process.

This consultation itself is ridiculously low key, too short and not very engaging. I only heard about it in the past couple of days and have seen numerous people in the environmental sector challenge the process which has resulted in an extension.

So now I urge everyone who has on opinion on the consultation process in Ireland to have your say. Even if you think it will fall on deaf ears! We can always share our ideas and create a manifesto of how we all want it done.

This is what the government press release to accompany the consultation:

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Brendan Howlin T.D., today (27 July 2015) published proposed Principles based Guidelines which aim to foster greater citizen consultation and involvement in policy and service development to strengthen democracy and improve public services.

A four week consultation process is being initiated on the draft Guidelines.  Anyone wishing to submit their views may do so by forwarding them to consultationguidelines@per.gov.ie  by Friday 9th October 2015.  All submissions will be considered, may be published on the Department’s website and will be subject to Freedom of Information legislation.   It is proposed, following the consultation process, to submit the draft Guidelines resulting from the consultation process to the Government in the Autumn, for final approval.

Background

A review of national and international guidelines was carried out. This included an examination of the Codes of Practice/Guidance on Consultation, and Consultation Principles in place in the UK, Australia, and Canada as well as those produced by the Council of Europe, the OECD, and the European Commission.  A principles based approach to public consultation is advocated by these administrations and institutions. The review informed the development of the draft guidelines setting out the principles to inform engagement by Government departments and other public bodies with stakeholders and citizens when developing policy, services and legislation.

Key Principles

In summary, the key principles are:

•Consultation with citizens must be genuine, meaningful, timely, balanced and with the ultimate objective of leading to better outcomes and greater understanding by all involved of the benefits and consequences of proceeding with a particular policy or legislation proposals.

•Consultation should be targeted at and easily accessible to those with a clear interest in the policy in question.

•In the case of significant policy, services or legislative proposals, public bodies should make systematic efforts to ensure that interested and affected parties have the opportunity to take part in open consultations at all stages of the policy process: development, implementation, evaluation, and review.

My personal opinion is that the initial allocation of 4 weeks for this consultation, over the busiest holiday season in Ireland, displays absolutely no commitment to gaining public opinion. Even now, given the lack of publicity, the extension doesn’t seem adequate.

The fact that they plan finalising the guidelines, with no further consultation, by Autumn also shows a lack of intention to generate participation. A further consultation on the draft would allow more time for critique, input and to explore ideas.

The link to the press release and relevant documents is here.

If you wish to share your ideas for a submission please comment on my blog. I will also share my submission when I get to write it next week.

Please share the consultation details and let others know that no matter how small their idea on consultation they should send it in.


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