Public Consultation

A public consultation is self-explanatory: a process in which the general public's views and input on a particular issue is sought. In the UK, many state bodies and government departments have held such consultations in recent years with a view to making policies more effective by taking on board the views of the general public and interested groups.

But there is rarely any obligation on the relevant department to follow through with the input it receives, leading to criticisms that public consultations serve to give the illusion of participatory democracy in which the public has a say in the policy making process but in fact simply divert their resources.

Input into such consultations, however, can also be used to disseminate views and opinions more broadly. Moreover, in instances where the public authorities fail to consult with all relevant 'stakeholders' and make decisions based on only partial or selective consultation, or when they carry out the consultation improperly, there may be possibilities for legal interventions in the form of a judicial review.