Manchester City Council has set up a new group of officers to look at improving consultations. So far, they have … no plans to ask citizens on the receiving end of consultations what they think. That’s the way things are done in Our (sic) Manchester – “differently.”
A 16 page report on the City Council’s approach to consultations is going to Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee (1) tomorrow. It proclaims that a
“new officer Co-production and Consultation Group (CPCG) group was established in October 2019 with representatives from across the Council. The group will consider how to use co-production techniques where appropriate, and how to apply an Our Manchester approach to consultation and engagement activities.”
That’s great. The world needs more officer groups, after all, complementing the existing teams which already stretch across all the council’s directorates (2) . What’s that, you say – shouldn’t they be talking to the residents and citizens who might not be overwhelmingly claque-y and supportive of existing consultation methods? Well, there are very firm and specific commitments to do just that. Oh yes. You just have to read between these lines….
5.4 The role of external partners and organisations in this group is being considered taking into account how their time can be best used in the design and shaping of any guidance and toolkits, and how their expertise can influence
In case you missed it,here it is again. (And who is allowed to be an external partner and organisation might get quite amusing – not so many of the awkward squad, we reckon…)
Overall, the report lists a series of *eight) up-beat examples of “good” consultations, where nothing major went tits up. It is typically vague on specifics (numbers of replies to various consultations) and carefully keeps clear of some spectacularly bad recent consultations – clock this masterful example of Sir Humphrey-speak-
“Other examples are not included in the scope of this paper as they have been recently considered by other Scrutiny Committees, for example Neighbourhoods Scrutiny have recently looked at the approach to consultation in Highways.”
The report, which unleashes new TLAs onto the world (CEF – Campaigning Engagement Framework) will be discussed by councillors tomorrow morning in the Town Hall Annexe, from 10am. Members of the pubic are welcome, don’t need to book, CAN film, and so on. The meeting can be watched on livestream if y ou can’t make it down in the flesh.
(1) There are six scrutiny committees. They are made up of “back-bench” councillors and their ostensible job is to keep tabs on what is and is not being done by the Executive and the officers. The scrutiny committees meet about ten times a year (2 hrs ish per meeting), in public. You’re able to attend and if you live in Manchester you can ask to speak on particular agenda items. Our advice is – never go alone, especially if it is your first time. You WILL lose the will to live. The scrutiny committee meetings are live streamed these days (the subject of past and future FoIAs).
The six scrutiny committees are –
Resources and Governance, Health, Communities and Equalities, Neighbourhoods and Environment, Economy, Children and Young People
(2) There are seven directorates (think of them as a bit like “Departments” at the Westminster level, though the analogy is shaky). They are core (not city solicitor), core – city solicitor, adult services, children’s services, population and well-being, growth and development and our personal favourite – Neighbourhoods.
The heads of each of these seven, along with the chief exec, make up the “Strategic Management Team”. Fun fact: Until very recently, and after prolonged FOIAing and chivvying, these eight had not done their carbon literacy training. They have now, but a couple of the top bods are leaving, so it will be entertaining to see if/when the new bods do their training… I feel a FOIA coming on….