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 overlookedinnovative
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 reachedfor
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
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. (www.hants.gov.uk)
Mrs J A Heath
Best Value Project Manager