6.5.3 Consultative Governance

Consultative governance combines the expertise of elected politicians with the involvement of everyone affected by an issue.

A government must know what people want if it is to do the best for the population.  As described earlier (, it isn’t practicable to ask the population directly to make all the necessary decisions to govern a country, but consultation is useful on single issues for which alternative solutions can be plainly defined:

●  Different groups of people in a society can be consulted about their concerns and priorities in relation to a particular issue, to overcome the shortcomings of politicians as representatives (

●  It is particularly useful in safeguarding the interests of the people most affected by a decision. Colchester City Council, for example, is “responsible for producing a Local Plan which guides future growth in the Borough” and lists several issues for consultation on its website.

Consultation can also be considered as a mechanism for public deliberation, whereby people can gradually change the opinion of others by putting forward arguments in a formal published process.

Consultative governance is not a simple panacea, however.  As discussed in the following sub-sections, there are several aspects to consider:

●  There is a choice of consultation techniques ( Modern technology has made it possible for large numbers of people to be consulted electronically, for example, but best practice guidelines suggest that this should not be the only method used for difficult issues.

●  There are problems in ensuring that all views are fairly represented ( the participants must be seen as legitimate representatives of their communities. This can be achieved by careful statistical sampling or by choosing spokespeople from recognised interest groups.

●  Some safeguards are necessary, to ensure that the results of consultation are accepted as legitimate ( Decisions must be weighted in accordance with the numbers of people affected and the strength of their interests – and transparency is essential, so that everyone can see that the process has been fairly conducted.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/653b.htm.