As regular readers of our blog will know we have recently embarked on a small mini-series of posts about the relationship between local and central government and how they can be improved. So far we’ve discussed secondments, internet dating, the possible abolition of the DCLG and the Barnett formula. This week we wanted to think a little about how the things that central government do could be more pro-actively developed in partnership with local government staff.
In local government circles we often talk about co-design and co-production of services; in effect arguing that the services we provide would be far better if we were able to engage the people using those services in the design, and often the delivery, of them. And yet, when it comes to the relationship between central and local government this sort of aspirational co-design is replaced by ‘consultation’ and Government ‘consultation’ is a far different beast.
Although there are notable exceptions to this the standard Government consultation works something like this. Sometime just before the end of July the Government will publish a consultation document with a deadline to respond sitting just the other side of the summer holidays. The content of this will have already been thoroughly, and complicatedly, developed within the Government and respondents will be asked to answer a series of pre-defined consultation questions. Whilst all of these responses will be responded to and some changes made the framework for that decision making will rarely, if ever, shift and when it does it usually has little or nothing to do with the formal consultation.