The top 10 questions you could ask about your own approach to consultation

Asset management, consultation, and accountability.

The top 10 questions we believe governors and senior managers could ask to improve accountability and consultation on infrastructural issues are:

Question Purpose
1 What are our legislative requirements? Legislative requirements need to be met. However, governors need to consider whether meeting legislation is enough to ensure all that needs to be said, consulted on, and achieved is covered in planning.
2 What do we need to know? The purpose of consultation should be clear. The information gathered should be directly relevant to a decision that the organisation needs to make.
3 Are we outward focused? People are interested and engaged with issues that affect them. Being outward focused and considering issues from stakeholders’ perspectives keeps consultation interesting and relevant.
4 Are we fairly representing the issues? Many infrastructural issues involve difficult choices. Sometimes limited resources need to be prioritised. Often, there is a degree of uncertainty involved – for example, the actual condition of buried assets or the actual life that an asset will function for. Sometimes, asset management involves balancing competing risks or trading off conflicting priorities. Fairly representing the issues provides the best chance of getting meaningful feedback.
5 Is our information presented in a way that can be readily understood? Many infrastructural issues are complex. Stakeholders cannot be expected to understand technical engineering details, but making these issues accessible will enable them to provide a user perspective.
6 Does our information inform discussion? Engaging consultation can stimulate discussion, helping to make issues a topic for conversation. Discussions can stimulate thinking and help generate more thoughtful responses.
7 Are we telling an integrated story? Infrastructural issues rarely sit in isolation. Most assets are part of a network. Work on one asset type can impact another. Co-ordinating repairs to underground pipes with road reseals is one example. Upgrading assets while renewing them is another, where a single project might involve addressing condition, performance, resilience, and growth.
8 Are the issues we present consistent with our underlying information? Consultation should be well informed and have a sound basis. Underlying information on asset age, condition, and performance, for example, should be consistent with the options put forward for consultation. Similarly, if underlying information points to a strategic issue subject to legislative requirements, it is likely a strong candidate for consultation. We don’t expect minor issues to be consulted on while more major ones are not.
9 Are we genuine in seeking feedback? Genuine engagement is a process that takes time. For important decisions, it probably starts well ahead of formal long-term planning. Positive engagement should actively seek input and be open to alternative ways forward.

Formal consultation should inform, allow for feedback, and formalise the adoption of preferred options.
10 Are we using appropriate and accessible means to communicate? Communication can take many forms. The internet and social media provide innovative ways to present issues and gather feedback. However, not all media suit all stakeholders. It is important to ensure that the means of communicating will reach all interested parties in a way that stimulates them to get involved.