Is this the worst consultation of 2017?
The Mayor of London’s consultation on Public Access and Engagement
There are too many poor public consultations,
So, part of the role of the Institute to champion best practice, and, occasionally to illustrate what can go wrong by exposing poor practice.
Last week saw the launch of a deeply flawed consultation on aspects of Policing in London. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have launched a public consultation on plans to close police front counters and contact points throughout London, and to seek ways of improving its public engagement.
For such a high-profile and potentially controversial matter, it is important that the consultation process is of the highest quality and free from any weaknesses that could expose its organisers to Judicial Review.
It covers controversial closures of 39 police counters and also the best future machinery for public engagement in the capital. The consultation is to last 12 weeks, but the Institute believes it is exposed to legal challenges on several grounds, and has identified ten significant failures, including: –
- Pretending to consult when decisions are already taken – i.e. pre-determination
- Inadequate performance data to support an analysis of current telephone usage
- Unprofessional use of graphics and unsourced data
- ‘Leading questions’ biased to elicit a particular answer
- Lack of dialogue methods, meetings, focus groups and no online survey
- Failure to seek ANY demographic data to understand who responds
The consultation relies solely upon an inadequate questionnaire with the failure to gather demographic details undermining any credibility it might have, and subsequently falls significantly short of best practice standards.
The Consultation can be found on
The Institute’s full critique of the consultation is available here
Rhion Jones, who is the author of the critique, comments: –
“This has all the hallmarks of an amateurish, rushed job to launch a consultation without adequate preparation. The document is so much worse than what the public now expects from local authorities, the National Health Service and parts of Central Government.”
“The consultation is certainly wide open to legal challenge, but more importantly, suggests to the public that neither the Mayor’s office nor the Metropolitan Police care enough to hold a professional dialogue with citizens and stakeholders. The way this has been so poorly organised makes it look as if they are just going through the motions.”
The Institute recommends withdrawing part of the consultation and using the remaining aspects to seek views on future public engagement approaches. Public responses could then be used to prepare options and proposals which can then be subject to a more professionally conducted consultation later this year.
Nick Duffin, Programme Director of the Institute insists that major organisations have no excuse for failures of this kind. “There is a wealth of good practice around…” he says “…and our own Quality Assurance provides an independent guarantee for public bodies and others who want to be sure they can deliver – and be seen to deliver a satisfactory consultation.”
Update 21/7 14:32- The Institute has received the following statement from the Metropolitan Police Service in response to this story. We regard this response as thoroughly inadequate, and with the exception of promising public events in each borough, fails to address any of the substantive points made by the Institute.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, supported by the Metropolitan Police Service, has opened a consultation on a new Public Access and Engagement Strategy for policing.
The MPS has done extensive research to understand how the public wish to contact our officers or report crime, and our approach is described in detail in the draft strategy document.
We are committed to providing the best service for Londoners to use, which allows us to deliver an effective and appropriate response. This means maximising the value the public gets from our resources, including officers, staff and our estate.
We will be working with MOPAC to engage the public across London to explain our approach and listen to their feedback. There will be local public consultation events in each borough.
For more detail about the consultation and engagement strategy or directions of how to get involved please visit: www.london.gov.uk/public-access