Welcome back from the summer break and we would like to remind all our readers that you can catch up on any ‘missed’ press releases by using our search facilities. Readers should also check the consultation section for un-advertised items published during August.
The devil is in the detail with consultations
Professional cynics like myself always ponder on the real reason why public sector organisations continue to launch consultations during the holiday periods, when most people are too busy preparing for (or catching up after) vacations / looking after their ‘ I’m bored’ children, to check consultations out in detail & respond appropriately.
This summer, I actually responded to one with the ‘informative’ title; HS2 Phase one Supplementary Environmental Statement and Additional Provision 2 (July 2015) Environmental Statement Consultation. To be fair they did send a letter round to local residents and held 2 local meetings (staffed by some very pleasant young people & a helpful press officer).
BUT one had to know the right questions to ask and then check out what they claimed as ‘background facts’ in the ‘well-hidden’ consultation document. On page 99 onwards they claimed the proposed route of access for 300 extra 30-tonne lorries per day (a 300% increase) was through ‘well connected’ roads, despite the fact that the ‘rat run’ of large lorries through the village is already the number one topic at local elections. The route also includes a narrow road with multiple tight S-bends at one end (and poor provision of some narrow footpaths), which recently had its speed limit reduced to 40mph and a 7.5-tonne lorry limit imposed. None of this was highlighted in the letter or at the meetings!
The proposed traffic increase was officially described as a ‘moderate adverse significant effect’ which we understand will go on for 3+ years. Further ‘googling’ has also shown that their projections have ‘conveniently’ left out the fact that planning consent has recently been granted for a Biomass plant to be located nearby, which will increase large lorry movements by an additional 100+ a day!!!!!!
One suspects Sir Humphrey would have briefed his hapless Minister of Administrative Affairs along the following lines:
Consultations are used to;
*Announce what the government has decided it will do, whatever the public says
*Allow them to claim that they did consider the impact of the plans, but that they would only have minor negative aspects (except for the local inhabitants)
*Allow them to claim that very few people disagreed with the plans
*Allow them to claim they did ask for / put forward other options, but none were better options
*Allow them to claim that the ‘majority’ must have agreed to the proposals, due to lack of comments
*Finally, to ‘spread the blame’ if it all goes wrong, by ‘assuming most people agreed it was the best solution’, as there were ‘relatively few objections’
So next time you skip over the Consultations section of WiredGov Plus, think again and also remember that most consultations are never publicised with a press release, so do not appear in either the email alerts or WiredGov Plus. Lastly, guess the closing date for ‘my’ consultation – 28 August 2015 – while most of us were still busy with holiday matters, getting children ready for school and young adults for tertiary education / obtaining a first job.