EDDC policy and guidance on conducting public consultations

tim todd made this Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

East Devon District Council did not have the information requested.

Dear East Devon District Council,

I would like to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am also making this Request under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004.

Will you kindly advise me as to what information that the council holds to ensure that its policies and practices, in relation to public consultations, are open and honest, methodologically sound, in accordance with best practice, and meet the Gunning (aka Sedley) criteria as endorsed by the Supreme Court in the case of R (Moseley)v Haringey London Borough Council [2014] UKSC 56, [2014] 1 WLR 3947. I am particularly interested in any steps taken to ensure that the potential for bias is recognised and catered for.

1. More specifically please provide me with copies of all standing orders/guidance/policy notes and all other information held that governs EDDC's conduct in the matter of its role in preparing, conducting, analyzing and reporting public consultations.

2. What policies exist to ensure that the format of public consultations is truly impartial and not influenced by the possibility of potential bias on the part of any member, officer or other party?

3. Is there any policy that, in the interests of good methodology, excludes potentially biased individuals, office holders or other such party , from being members of the group commissioning and executing any such consultation?

4. What policies does EDDC have to ensure, in the interest of good methodology, that all persons who may, unwittingly or otherwise, potentially exert some bias are excluded from involvement in the analysis and reporting of consultation results?

5. What policies and good practice does EDDC have to ensure that any consultations it may hold are exclusively designed and executed for the sole purpose of reliably establishing as accurate a picture of public opinion on the consultation subject matter as may be possible?

6. What policies and good practice does EDDC have that ensures that the public are supplied with and can be expected to understand the background detail relating to any consultation held by EDDC and that they have ready access to all relevant information both online, through council offices and local media?

7. What policy and good practice guidance does EDDC provide with regard to the online provision and retention of consultation background, consultation processes, consultation results and consultation analysis, and how long such information remains available on line?

8. What policy and guidance does EDDC have that will identify and quantify how the opinion of respondents is taken into account. If changes to proposals result, how is the level of change recorded and reported?

9. What policy and guidance does EDDC have to monitor the ongoing levels of popular opinion. If public opinion appears to change over time, how is the level of change recorded and reported?

And finally, 10. What measures are in place to ensure that staff employed to work on consultations stay up to date with the relevant literature on research methodologies.

Where policies exist please indicate the date of such policies and, if recently changed, provide a copy of the previous policies.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,
Tim Todd

Dear East Devon District Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of East Devon District Council's handling of my FOI request 'EDDC policy and guidance on conducting public consultations'.

You have, yet again failed to comply with the Act in regard to the time allowed for response.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

Yours faithfully,

tim todd

Kate Symington, East Devon District Council

Mr Todd

 

Thank you for your request for information. Please find requested detail
below:

 

1.      Please provide copies of all standing orders/guidance/policy notes
and all other information held that governs EDDC’s conduct in the matter
of its role in preparing, conducting, analysing and reporting public
consultations.

Please find here a link to our Community Engagement Policy
[1]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...

This includes detail about why and how we engage with consultees.

Further, and more general, information about consultation at EDDC can also
be found here [2]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...

 

2.      What specific policies exist to ensure that the format of public
consultations is truly impartial and not influenced by the possibility of
potential bias on the part of a member, officer or other party?

Our Community Engagement Policy is relevant.

Register of Interest forms for EDDC Councillors can also be accessed here
[3]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...

 

3.      Is there a policy that, in the interests of good methodology,
excludes potentially biased individuals, office holders or other such
party from being members of the group commissioning and executing any such
consultation?

No specific information held

Register of Interest forms for Councillors can be viewed here
[4]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...

 

4.      What policies does EDDC have to ensure, in the interests of good
methodology, that all persons who may unwittingly or otherwise,
potentially exert some bias are excluded from involvement in the analysis 
and reporting of results?

The only information held is our Community Engagement Policy and the
published register of interest forms

 

5.      What policies and good practice does EDDC have to ensure that any
consultations it may hold are exclusively designed and executed for the
sole purpose of reliably establishing as accurate a picture of public
opinion on the consultation subject matter as possible?

Our Community Engagement policy is relevant to this question.

 

6.      What policies and good practice does EDDC have that ensures that
the public are supplied with and can be expected to understand the
background detail relating to any consultation held by EDDC and that they
have ready access to all relevant information both online and through
council offices and local media

The response (and information held) will vary depending on the subject
matter being consulted upon

 

7.      What policy and good practice does EDDC provide with regard to the
online provision and retention of consultation background, consultation
processes, consulation results and consultation analysis, and how long
such information remains available online?

Information online is updated when it is no longer relevant or when it is
replaced with more recent material

 

8.      What policy and guidance does EDDC have that will identify and
quantify how the opinion of respondents is taken into account? If changes
to proposals result, how is this level of change recorded and reported?

Policy changes would be reported through Cabinet and the agendas and
minutes for Cabinet can be accessed here
[5]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...

These pages online are also relevant to this question and provide useful
context [6]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...

 

9.      What policy and guidance does EDDC have to monitor the ongoing
levels of popular opinion. If public opinion appears to change over time,
how is the level of change recorded and reported?

The Viewpoint survey
[7]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...
is conducted every two years and results reported to Members

Other surveys/consultation is conducted as and when appropriate for
individual service/policy areas.

 

I hope this is helpful.

 

If you feel dissatisfied with our response to your request please contact
our Monitoring Officer to request an internal review at
[8][email address]

 

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at
[9]www.ico.gov.uk

 

 

 

Mrs Kate Symington

Information and Complaints Officer

East Devon District Council

 

01395 517417

[10]www.eastdevon.gov.uk

 

References

Visible links
1. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...
2. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...
3. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...
4. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...
5. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...
6. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...
7. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and...
8. mailto:[email address]
9. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
10. http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/

Dear East Devon District Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I note that you have now given a response to my request

My earlier request an internal review of East Devon District Council's handling of my FOI request 'EDDC policy and guidance on conducting public consultations' still stands however.

In addition to the concern over the time taken, I must now add that I consider that your reply has failed to address my request at practically every level but for those where you appear to have no policy to safeguard the ussues raised.

In the first instance, you ignore, in your reply, the most important part of my request, namely para 2, which reads:

"Will you kindly advise me as to what information that the council
holds to ensure that its policies and practices, in relation to
public consultations, are open and honest, methodologically sound,
in accordance with best practice, and meet the Gunning (aka Sedley)
criteria as endorsed by the Supreme Court in the case of R
(Moseley)v Haringey London Borough Council [2014] UKSC 56, [2014] 1
WLR 3947. I am particularly interested in any steps taken to ensure
that the potential for bias is recognised and catered for."

Nothing in your reply addresses the request in the above paragraph,
that consultations are open, honest, methodologically sound etc..

In respect of the more specific requests I make the following comments.

1. A Community Engagement Policy link does not amount to provision of the information sought. The 'policy' simply does not address the question. A link to past consultations (which fails to include a number of current interest , e.g. Exmouth Splash) is irrelevant to the question asked.

2. The Community Engagement policy is not an answer to the question, nor is a link to the Register of Members' Interests (A register that you have previously advised is only ever what member's choose to tell you) Absolutely no attempt seems to have been made to deal with potential bias on the part of officers or other parties

3. The lack of any policy to exclude potentially biased parties is noted.

4. The lack of any such policy is noted.

5. The Community Engagement policy does not answer this question so I assume no such policies exist.

6. The lack of a policy is noted.

7. This seems to be a deliberately misleading answer designed to cover the lack of a firm policy. I note
, for example, that the last entry on Exmouth Vision Facebook page was 24th April 2015, that the last Exmouth Vision Twitter post was on the same date- and advised of its closing, that the last readily discoverable website reference is May 2015. Using EDDC's website search facility fails to find anything but passing references to consultations, no data/results appear to be available. As the Exmouth Splash is very much a current project your answer is both wrong and misleading.

8. I note that the first sentence/request is not addressed and that there seems to be no mechanism to raise public awareness of change that might result from consultation- or perhaps in the case of Exmouth Splash, no changes resulted from public consultation ( I will ask a further FOI on this)

9. All my questions have been about conduction public consultations. It is disappointing that you have chosen to regard this question in more general terms and interpret it as a question about saisfaction with EDDC.

10. No attempt at answering. Should I assume that no such measures exist?

On a more general note I would point out that I asked not for website links, but for copies of information held. I do not believe that any policies that EDDC might have just appear in agenda, minutes and on websites. The documentation leading to such publications should have been produced. Further, I note that even though it fails to deal with my requests, the Community Engagement Policy you quote, is a very recent document, 13th October 2015. You should also clarify what information you hold, if any, about policies and practice before this document and provide that information.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

Yours faithfully,

tim todd

Henry Gordon Lennox, East Devon District Council

Mr Todd

 

I am sorry that you feel dissatisfied with our response to your request
for information. I will deal with each of your numbered points below:

 

1.       A community engagement policy link does not amount to provision
of the information sought. The policy simply does not address the
question. A link to past consultations (which fails to include a number of
current interest) is irrelevant to the question asked

I am sorry that you feel that the information provided is not relevant to
your request.  I confirm that there is nothing else held which falls
within the scope of the question asked.

 

2.       The community engagement policy is not an answer to the question,
nor is a link to the Register of Members’ interests. Absolutely no attempt
appears to have been made to deal with potential bias on the part of
officers or parties.

I am sorry that you do not feel the information provided is relevant to
your request. We employ an officer to oversee consultation projects
throughout the council to ensure consistency and best practice. All large
scale consultation is approved by our Senior Management Team. There is
nothing further we can add in terms of actual information in response to
this point.

 

7. This seems to be a deliberately misleading answer designed to cover the
lack of a firm policy. I note, for example, that the last entry on Exmouth
Vision Facebook page was 24th April 2015, that the last Exmouth Vision
Twitter post was on the same date- and advised of its closing, that the
last readily discoverable website reference is May 2015. Using EDDC's
website search facility fails to find anything but passing references to
consultations, no data/results appear to be available. As the Exmouth
Splash is very much a current project your answer is both wrong and
misleading.

               As advised, our policy in terms of consultation is only to
include information where it is up-to-date and relevant. No further
information is held in response to this question

 

8. I note that the first sentence/request is not addressed and that there
seems to be no mechanism to raise public awareness of change that might
result from consultation- or perhaps in the case of
Exmouth Splash, no changes resulted from public consultation ( I will ask
a further FOI on this)

As advised, policy changes would be reported through Cabinet and the
agendas. The report referenced here
[1]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1243178/11...
provides an example of the way consultation approaches and responses are
considered by Cabinet.

 

10. No attempt at answering. Should I assume that no such measures exist?

Apologies for not addressing this question previously. I confirm that no
specific information is held.

 

I confirm that all information held in respect of this request has been
provided and that we do not wish to comment or provide an opinion in
respect of the questions you raise – over and above the provision of
recorded information where it is held.

 

If you remain dissatisfied with our response, you have the right to refer
this matter to the Information Commissioner at [2]www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

HENRY GORDON LENNOX

 

Monitoring Officer

East Devon District Council

Tel: 01395 517401

Ext: 2601

Email: [email address]

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1243178/11...
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/

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