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The case against certainty

Why consultation is even more necessary in 2022

One of the main arguments against consultation has always been that it happens too late and is a tokenistic exercise, having little influence because the decision-maker’s mind has already been made up. In the UK alone, there are hundreds of consultations each year that will have no impact on the consultor, who has already in effect decided what to do. It is a colossal waste of everyone’s time, and a breach of the Gunning One principle – that consultations should only take place at the ‘formative stage’ of the decision-making process. Much of the work of the Consultation Institute has been a campaign to eliminate this abuse.

Yet it continues to happen …often for understandable reasons. Politicians get elected after making promises and are naturally in a hurry to implement them. Voters traditionally respond best to clarity of message, personal conviction, and certainty. And time is always short in politics. Hesitate, and the momentum can falter. Think twice … and the window of opportunity can close abruptly. No wonder there is pressure either to by-pass a consultation – if politically possible. Make it as brief as one can, or to narrow its scope to avoid the main question and restrict the scope of the consultation to How we do it rather than “What should we do”.


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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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