The Public Administration Select Committee in the UK has today published their sixth report called INNOVATIONS IN CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT. Very interesting read! I had the pleasure of participating in their online consultation. The committee recommends that all public authorities should have access to a code of guidance which expresses the fundamental importance of involving the public in decision-making wherever and however it can be made feasible at reasonable cost and in a timely and responsible manner.
“Our broadest conclusion from the very wide range of evidence sessions that we have held is that the period since the middle 1990s has seen an explosion of interest in involving the public more frequently, more extensively, and in much more diverse ways in the conduct of decision-making within the public services. In all the Committee’s work we have been concerned to emphasise that the modernization of government must go hand in hand with the maintenance and development of channels of public accountability. Our witnesses and visits suggest that an increasing number of public servants and elected representatives accept the importance of securing greater public involvement, recognise that this goal cannot be easily or crudely achieved, and are prepared to commit the resources, time and ingenuity to overcome problems and make new advances. This is a commitment which we welcome and would like to see further extended and supported.”
“We conclude that new technologies, carefully used, are tools which offer the possibility of greatly improving the accessibility and use made by citizens of public participation opportunities. People can access consultation Web sites when they wish to and respond easily, immediately and flexibly via e-mail. However, developing facilities exclusively for those with Internet access at home or work still carries an inherent risk of increasing social exclusion for those without access. So public agencies may need to try and use money saved via e-governance developments to make an even more systematic outreach effort to give information to and solicit the views of groups without ready e-access, and other groups least present in such participation exercises.”