This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/Cuts-poll-results-due.6393589.jp. To their merit Northamptonshire County Council took the bold decision quite a while ago that they needed to have a big debate about the financial challenges they are facing as a council. They wanted to talk to local people about this challenge and to get them involved in the solution.
This is all great stuff, but the problem consultations like this face is that that they may fall into the trap of going for quantity and not quality if they are not designed properly: by relying too much on capturing top of head opinion (e.g. opinion polls and their variations) as opposed to going down the route of deliberative engagement. This news piece appears to be indicating that this could be the case in Northamptonshire with the consultation relying too much on perceived popular opinion rather than in depth two way dialogue about the pros and cons of different choices. This can create many difficulties down the line if stakeholders feel that the real issues have not been discussed properly and decisions are being made on the back of , potentially superficial, opinion polls alone. This may well not be the case for Northamptonshire’s consultation, but they are being bold and leading by example so lets hope their approach works.
Watch this space.