Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Hampshire County Council

Hampshire County Council is pleased to submit the following comments and examples, to inform the Select Committee in its deliberations.

    —  While not innovative in terms of technique, the County Council is placing greater emphasis on ensuring citizens' views are collected in an unbiased fashion, without prejudging the outcome of research. Commissioning work with an external and well regarded firm (MORI) has ensured the objectivity of key research into community opinions on the corporate strategy. This aspect of consultation should not be overlooked—innovative techniques in themselves do not guarantee that the outcomes are both unbiased and implemented. To ensure success, the County Council has a number of initiatives to raise staff and member awareness of the purpose and benefits of consultation.

    —  A further issue has been the identification of conflicting views. For example, the public is split over whether to maintain trimmed and tidy grass verges or to allow the growth of natural wild habitats. The approach has, therefore, been to address specific issues to the tightly focused areas/groups which are likely to be affected. Local solutions are vitally important in gaining acceptance of decisions taken.

    —  The most innovative piece of market research has recently been planned in an initiative to support road traffic reduction. It acknowledges that blanket initiatives are unlikely to succeed because of the depth and breadth of public feeling in favour of the car. A market research project is being commissioned to identify those segments of the community who are most likely to be receptive to traffic reduction initiatives. This approach builds on practices commonly used in the private sector to segment markets and is aimed at achieving a high success rate early in the project, which may in turn encourage others to join in at later stages.

    —  Hampshire County Council has a good track record of working with focus and interest groups to gain views. Innovation has been in the breadth of groups reached—for example Hampshire Users Bureau, involving users of social services; parent-teacher association representative on education committee; partners involved in identifying education budget priorities, residents involvement in road safety schemes. While this approach can build consensus for the final decision, there is a recognised danger that the groups involved may not be fully representative.

    —  Interest and focus groups have also been used to build collaborative partnerships in delivering certain services. The following example is given from the Countryside service:

      —  The Western Commons Liaison Group helps with the management of land owned by the County Council in the New Forest. There had been public unease about the council's potential activities. Meetings were held and the group formed, with a number of different stakeholders, including the parish council, commoners, verderers and English Nature. The work undertaken has been developed with the group and has been influenced by what local people wanted. As a result there has been minimal vandalism on the sites, following installation of barriers and gates etc. This is in direct contrast to previous activity when there was large-scale destruction of management works and bad feeling. A problem-solving forum now exists should future challenges arise.

    —  An important element of the County Council's strategy in dealing with its many stakeholders in the community, is the development of the Hantsweb website. Recognised by many as an excellent example of public sector use of technology, it also encourages interaction and of course is context specific to the area the browser is looking at. (

Mrs J A Heath
Best Value Project Manager

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