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Cash for Consultees? – Is it justified to pay people to take part in consultations?

One of the legacies of the 1990’s was revulsion with so-called sleaze and a raft of anti-corruption machinery such as the Nolan Rules. As a result, those who become involved in public life, or who hold public office, are today conscious of the need to be whiter-than-white and to account for every penny which could be construed as tending to procure a sympathetic hearing for themselves or for causes they support.

This puritanical zeal is reflected in a widespread reluctance by stakeholders and their organisations to become involved in any process that is tainted by funding that could be seen as influencing what they say or what they do. The voluntary sector is particularly alive to this danger, but this scepticism extends far and wide, and has real implications for those who manage consultations.

So, if a mobile telephone Company pays local residents for their time to attend a Focus Group on proposals for a new transmitter mast, will opponents of the scheme cry foul and claim that participants in such an exercise are more likely to say Yes? Even if the sums involved are modest, and extremely unlikely to influence anyone, is this a case where the perception is more important than reality, and where objectivity (rather like justice) has to be seen to be done?


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About the Author

Rhion Jones is considered a leading authority on Public Engagement and Consultation. A founding Director of the Consultation Institute, he is co-author of “The Art of Consultation” (2009) and “The Politics of Consultation” (2018). He has delivered over 500 training courses and Masterclasses and is a prolific writer on the subject, having written over 350 different Topic papers and over 50 full Briefing Papers for the Institute. Since 2003 over 15,000 person-days of training based on courses he invented have been delivered. Rhion is in demand as an entertaining Keynote Speaker and Special Adviser, particularly on the Law of Consultation, and its implications for Government and other Public Bodies. In 2017, he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’.

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