Memorandum by the Cabinet Office
Thank you for your letter of 16 February seeking
our help in the Committee's inquiry into Innovations in Public
The Cabinet Office has carried out many public
consultations since May 1997. The annex to this letter lists a
number of them: we have, as I think was your preference, concentrated
on those where the consultation had something particularly innovative
We have tried to consult in a way that reaches
as many people as possiblefor example through the work
on social exclusion, listening to women, listening to older people,
and listening to young people ("Listen-up").
We have tried to consult at an early stage in
the policy and service development process, so that people outside
Government have a better chance to shape the agenda. Consultation
ought not always to be a matter of simply inviting comment on
options already formulated and put on paper, though that is important
too, and needs to be done properly. Ian McCartney will talk about
it when he visits you shortly.
The attached notes outline some cases where
this work has fed through into firm policy decisions. In other
cases, we are still developing policy.
We, and other departments, have used a wide
variety of forms of consultation. I believe we still have something
to learn about the effectiveness of each. We have some plans to
do this. For example, as I think Jonathan Rees from this office
indicated when he made a presentation to you on People's Panel,
we plan evaluation of that exercise. The new Centre for Management
and Policy Studies, which has been set up as part of our drive
for better, evidence-based policy-making, will be conducting case
studies in policy development, and I would expect these to add
to our knowledge of which methods of consultation are most effective.
And in connection with our revision of the guidance on written
consultation exercises we plan a website, which will point the
way to best practice for the benefit of those planning consultation
in the future.
In short I think we have come a long way, but
have more to learn about effective consultation, which is closely
related to our objectives of achieving greater openness in Government,
making it more responsive to public needs, and building trust
between the citizen and the Government machine. I look forward
to the Committee's report helping us in that process of improvement.
The People's Panel is a nationally representative
group of 5,000 people set up in 1998 to be consulted on a range
of public service and other issues. As far as we are aware, it
is a world-first. It has been used so far for four major waves
of research and several ad-hoc research projects. The Director
of Modernising Public Services Group made a presentation to the
Committee detailing the use of the People's Panel. Here are some
examples of where the research has had an input into policy development.
People's Panel consultation into
views on biosciences made a contribution to the review of the
regulatory framework for genetic development; the biosciences
work also had a strong influence on the House of Lords Select
Committee on Science and Technology. Their report on Science and
Society makes extensive use of the data.
School Performance Tables: the Department
for Education and Employment had an urgent need to seek parents'
views on value added performance tables. The report was used to
provide advice to Ministers on the presentation of such performance
Input to housing benchmarks: the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions needed
quickly to generate benchmarks on where people live to inform
the Urban White Paper and Housing Green Paper. The DETR used the
People's Panel to do this. The outputs from the research were
analysed and the data used in different ways to inform policy.
The Cabinet Office have held 10 Listening to
Older People events across the UK between June and November 1999
to give older people opportunities to tell ministers directly
about their needs and priorities for action. The process will
culminate in a national listening event in the spring, from which
conclusions will follow about the direction of policy and service
provision relating to older people.
Better Government for Older People is a programme
of 28 local authority-led projects pioneering better ways of consulting
and involving older people at local level and designing public
services that are more responsive to their needs.
The Women's Unit in the Cabinet Office carried
out a sustained Listening to Women exercise. A report of findings
from the exercise and the Government's measures in support of
women, was launched on 6 October in an innovative magazine style
publication called Voices. There were three elements to
this campaign: focus groups conducted using the People's Panel,
postcard questionnaires, and a series of 12 ministerial regional
roadshows. Over 30,000 women participated in the exercise.
The consultation work helped shape a number
of Government responses for the future, also set out in Voices.
We consulted front line public sector staff
to identify their perception of the burden of regulation, bureaucracy
and red tape, through interviews with selected staff. The interview
process was [designed to be representative, identify bias and
achieve consistency]. An innovative scoring system was developed
to compare responses. Future work of the Regulatory Impact Unit
will be based on the findings of this consultation.
The Listen-Up Campaign. This was a joint Cabinet
Office/Home Office initiative to encourage and facilitate constructive
dialogue between Government and young people. The consultation
has taken place over the last year. The Women's Unit in the Cabinet
Office and the Home Office have worked with voluntary organisations
to consult through youth groups, vox pops [what are they], web
forums and an all-day event. The focus on looking at the different
needs of young men and young women was also novel. We are publishing
the report of the Listen-Up campaign in April. It will outline
not only the findings of the consultation but our response to
The Central IT Unit of the Cabinet Office conducted
a major survey in 1998 on people's attitudes to electronic government.
The report of this is helping to inform our development of electronic
services for the public, reflected in the e-government strategy
we are to launch shortly.
The Social Exclusion Unit has undertaken a range
of consultations on: truancy and school exclusions; rough sleeping;
neighbourhood renewal; teenage pregnancy; and opportunities for
16 and 17 year olds not in training or employment. As well as
written consultations on these issues, there were seminars with
teachers, parents, pupils, voluntary organisations; meetings with
rough sleepers; visits to day centres; visits to 17 cities and
towns; face-to-face meetings with young people and parents; and
discussion groups. The research has fed through into the reports
of a large number of Policy Action Teams set up under the SEU
The Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation
Unit have also conducted a number of consultations:
Regions: a formal consultation note
was put out to stakeholders and on the web for the PIU regions
project, and people were encouraged to respond via e-mail. We
commissioned consultants to analyse the response to this report,
which highlighted some major problems and this fed into the final
report (published in February 2000, copy on the PIU Website).
The report represents Government policy and a new regional co-ordination
unit and enhanced role for Government Offices of the regions have
been two of the main outcomes;
Rural economies: a consultation document
was issued to several hundred stakeholders. The Report was published
in December 1999 and is being taken forward in rural White Paper;
The electronic service delivery project:
this is currently making use of the discussion forum on the No10
Website (www.Number-10.gov.uk), with a short consultation document
raising a number of questions for discussion on this site.
Other PIU projects: "Eemail@example.com",
"Wiring It Up", "Adding It Up", active ageing
projects: a large number of meetings, workshops and seminars with
stakeholders were held for these. We made use of voting software
systems as a way of getting a better feel for people's views.
We are researching the possibility of using it more widely.
PIU are also using focus groups in
a few projects for some of the research and other consumer research
through opinion polls as a way of getting views and testing emerging
solutions, particularly for groups which may not be so well represented
by NGOs or other groups within a project.