Posted tagged ‘duty to involve’

The Duty to Involve debate

April 20, 2011

We all agree people should be involved but is the Duty to Involve any good?

Eric Pickles is all over the deregulation agenda at the moment.

His latest effort has been to re-write the Best Value guidance and in doing so also repeal the ‘Duty to Involve’ and the ‘Duty to Prepare a Sustainable Community Strategy’.

His rewriting involved reducing pages and pages of official ‘guidance’ and reduce it to just under 300 words. Indeed, the press release accompanying the announcement was twice as long!

The welovelocalgovernment team is a diverse one so in order to reflect this we set up a little late night e-mail debate between two of us.

Here is the outcome:

Let’s cut to the chase; the duty to involve was just like any other duty; ill-defined and misappropriated. It was, at the same time, used to justify activity that suited a councils own needs and applied to activities that had no business being called consultation just to say we had met the duty.

Nothing like a gentle warm up eh? I think the issue you might be having is simply looking at life AD (after duty) and how the duty was misused. For all the faults in application, the duty provided those of us who care about public involvement and engagement a powerful argument. We were able to go to senior managers and argue that they had to do a better job of engaging with the public because of the duty. I’ve lost count of the number of times the duty was referenced in senior level reports. Local Government can often be slow to do the right thing and a little kick from the centre can do wonders.

But isn’t that the problem Mr Pickles et al are trying to solve? If Local Government doesn’t stop being so dependant on the ‘central powers that be’ how are we ever going to develop powerful self confident local government that we need?

(more…)