The Splash 'consultation'

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.

The request was partially successful.

Dear East Devon District Council,

In regard to the Exmouth Splash 'consultation' please provide answers to the following questions which are intended to help determine whether the exercise is a genuine, valid, reliable and unprejudiced attempt to determine local opinion. I would also like to know how you intend to assess and interpret the results.

1.What is the purpose of the 'consultation'? To determine whether a Splash development takes place, or to determine what might form part of the designated areas?

2. Who at EDDC came up with the form of words used on the consultation document that is to be returned to EDDC- which individuals (or posts they hold).

3. In relation to each of the above individuals, please provide details of any recognised professional qualifications in the field of market research or research methods.

4. Who decided to send a consultation form to 1,000 randomly selected residents, and why, given that this was a complete departure from the methodology of previous Exmouth consultations? Can we take it that EDDC now recognise my criticism, and that of the Audit Commission, that the earlier consultation methodology, as reported by R Cohen, was so faulted as to be useless?

5. Exactly how were the randomly selected residents selected, are they all from Exmouth, has any recognised independent party (who if so) been able to observe the selection process and confirm it was appropriate?

6 .What steps have been taken, if any, to ensure that replies from the randomly selected group are from the same selected households and not others, that fraudulent replies can be identified and stripped out ?

7. Was the 'consultation' trialled before being sent out to residents in accordance with good practice? If so details please.

8. How will the qualitative responses be assessed and critically evaluated and by whom. Again, what are their professional qualifications for such work.

9. How will the quantitative data (such as it is) be critically evaluated?

10. Did nobody consider asking simple unambiguous questions as is good practice?

11. What level of return is expected from the 1,000 randomly selected households and what, if any follow up procedures are in place for non-respondents prior to the closing date?

12. What level of consultation return will EDDC expect in order to meet recognised standards as indicative of a valid consultation of 35,000 plus people? (Ignoring for a moment all the technical errors in the methodology)

13.Who decided to run the exercise over the Xmas period?

14. Will you keep the (anonymous) completed questionnaires
in case they are required for subsequent scrutiny to check on the accuracy or otherwise of your analysis.

15. Please provide details of exactly how in your words you will be "Working with Exmouth Community College to make sure we get the views of young people". How will you be working with them? Will you present any results in detail, such as ages and exactly how many answered each question rather than the vague inclusion in the style of the last consultation?

As usual, please feel free to check back with me if any of my questions are unclear to you mind and also feel free to answer piecemeal if any questions take longer to answer than the majority .

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

tim todd

East Devon District Council

Thank you for submitting a request for information. We will respond to your request as quickly as possible, within the 20 working day statutory deadline under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

For updates on this case, please quote your unique reference number 101000273997 .

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East Devon District Council
Web: www.eastdevon.gov.uk

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East Devon District Council

Dear Mr Todd,

Thank you for your request for information. Please find the response to your query below.

1.What is the purpose of the 'consultation'? To determine whether a Splash development takes place, or to determine what might form part of the designated areas?

The Exmouth Splash development is a key project as agreed by the Council and identified within the Exmouth Town Centre and Seafront Masterplan. We are asking people what their views are about the kind of development and uses to happen on the site.

2. Who at EDDC came up with the form of words used on the consultation document that is to be returned to EDDC- which individuals (or posts they hold).

The wording was written collaboratively by:
? Community Funding and Engagement Officer
? Development Surveyor
? Principal Estates Surveyor
? Communications Adviser

It was also reviewed by:
? Deputy Chief Executive
? Communications and Public Affairs Manager
? Communications Officer
? Senior Elected Members

The process was overseen by the Community Engagement and Funding Officer.

3. In relation to each of the above individuals, please provide details of any recognised professional qualifications in the field of market research or research methods.

All the persons mentioned in answer to question 2 above hold the relevant qualifications and experience for their job roles. This includes the Community Engagement and Funding Officer, whose Person Specification you have previously received who holds relevant professional qualifications for market research and research methods.

4. Who decided to send a consultation form to 1,000 randomly selected residents, and why, given that this was a complete departure from the methodology of previous Exmouth consultations? Can we take it that EDDC now recognise my criticism, and that of the Audit Commission, that the earlier consultation methodology, as reported by R Cohen, was so faulted as to be useless?

This decision was taken by the Exmouth Regeneration Project Executive to supplement the self selection surveys. The majority of respondents to the last formal Exmouth Masterplan questionnaire itself were over the age of 60 (54%), due to the nature of the Exmouth Splash we wanted to try to make sure that more families and younger people were given the easier opportunity to comment if they wished.

EDDC is aware of the Audit Commissions response and does not see within that response the interpretation that you have chosen to infer from it.

5. Exactly how were the randomly selected residents selected, are they all from Exmouth, has any recognised independent party (who if so) been able to observe the selection process and confirm it was appropriate?

The residents were selected at random by interrogating the Land and Property Gazeteer database of all residential addresses within the Parish of Exmouth. They were selected completely at random using a formula applied to the database so there is no need for independent involvement.

6 .What steps have been taken, if any, to ensure that replies from the randomly selected group are from the same selected households and not others, that fraudulent replies can be identified and stripped out ?

Anyone can take part in the Exmouth Splash consultation anyway be it by self selection or random mailout. We trust people to complete their own questionnaires if they receive one through the random mailout. Your reference to ?fraudulent? seems to suggest that somehow residents of Exmouth might engage in a criminal deception involving a consultation form. This is a pre-planning consultation form not a ballot paper or a tax return.

To ask people for their full addresses alongside their answers would discourage a lot of people from completing the questionnaire. The letter accompanying the random mailout explains to those receiving it how their neighbours, friends and relatives can get involved in the self selection questionnaire.

7. Was the 'consultation' trialled before being sent out to residents in accordance with good practice? If so details please.

The consultation was not trialled.

8. How will the qualitative responses be assessed and critically evaluated and by whom. Again, what are their professional qualifications for such work.

The Community Engagement and Funding Officer will be writing the report of the results. Included in the report seen by the Councillors and Officers working on the project will be lists of all qualitative responses verbatim. As in the Exmouth Masterplan consultation, due to the possibility of identifying respondents by their verbatim comments, responses will be summarised and categorised for wider publication.
As explained in a previous response to you the Community Engagement and Funding Officer meets the requirements of the Person Specification for the role which includes the requirement for relevant qualifications. We have previously sent you the Person Specification.
As explained in the consultation information the results will be presented to Elected Members in the form of a report, with recommendations on how a formal planning application should look and what it should contain.

9. How will the quantitative data (such as it is) be critically evaluated?

Quantitative data will be analysed by the Community Engagement and Funding Officer using IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) software.
As explained in the consultation information the results will be presented to Elected Members. Keep an eye out on the Exmouth Vision website and in the local media to see what is happening with the results.

10. Did nobody consider asking simple unambiguous questions as is good practice?

We believe the questions are simple and unambiguous.

11. What level of return is expected from the 1,000 randomly selected households and what, if any follow up procedures are in place for non-respondents prior to the closing date?

Response rates vary depending on a large number of factors, some of which cannot be predicted. We will be sending out reminder letters to recipients after Christmas.

12. What level of consultation return will EDDC expect in order to meet recognised standards as indicative of a valid consultation of 35,000 plus people? (Ignoring for a moment all the technical errors in the methodology)

This is specifically a pre-planning application consultation, as such every response is valid and every individual response may give valuable suggestions and comments. This consultation is mainly qualitative, and asking for ideas, suggestions and improvements. We are giving everyone the opportunity to have their say and publicising the consultation as far and wide as time and resources allow. We have even supplemented this with a random mailout to 1,000 households.
We do not agree that there are technical errors in the methodology as it is a pre-planning application consultation.

13.Who decided to run the exercise over the Xmas period?

The Exmouth Regeneration Board. EDDC aim to submit a planning application in Spring of 2013 therefore public consultation needed to be before that deadline. There will of course also be consultation involving any future planning applications.

14. Will you keep the (anonymous) completed questionnaires in case they are required for subsequent scrutiny to check on the accuracy or otherwise of your analysis.

We will keep responses to the consultations for six years, as we do with other consultations.

15. Please provide details of exactly how in your words you will be "Working with Exmouth Community College to make sure we get the views of young people". How will you be working with them? Will you present any results in detail, such as ages and exactly how many answered each question rather than the vague inclusion in the style of the last consultation?

We worked with the Community College to plan how we involved them, as we wanted to fit in with their requirements and time available. We will be talking to all the students in their assemblies and have already talked to Years 10 and 11 and sent out further information to each tutor group. All will be given information about how to get involved further. In addition we will be going into the Community College and having a lunchtime stall after the Xmas break, and seeking their views directly then using an engaging exercise.

Consultation has to be designed in particular ways to fit different groups of people, it is not a one size fits all approach- which is why we have the survey available online, on paper and have occassions where people can meet us face to face if they prefer, and is exactly why we are working with the Community College specifically. As such consultation with young people sometimes has to be carried out differently to engage them, and so can lead to results being collected and presented in a different way.

I hope this is helpful.

If you are not satisfied with the way we have responded to your request, please fill in our online complaint form at www.eastdevon.gov.uk/making_a_complaint or write to the Monitoring Officer, EDDC, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL.

Kate Symington
Information and Complaints Officer
East Devon District Council

01395 517417
www.eastdevon.gov.uk

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