Consultation is a regulatory process in which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought. Its main goals are in improving the efficiency, transparency and public involvement in decision making processes. All consultations are run according to the Gunning Principles. Feedback surveys are effective methods of monitoring customer satisfaction and identifying areas that could be improved. Internal consultations can be conducted to gain staff views, expertise and suggestions to guide decision making.

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Consult when:

  • You are changing or removing a service
  • To guide service improvement
  • Required by law


  • To ensure that service provision meets need
  • Make cost effective changes
  • Build rapport with residents
  • Meet legal requirements
  • Ensures strategic decision making
  • Utilises the knowledge and skill of staff and the public


  • Focus group
  • Interview
  • Survey

Law of Consultation

In 1985 four rules of consultation were set out by Stephen Smedley QC in R v London Borough of Brent ex parte Gunning. A case in which an outcome of a consultation leading to a school closure was challenged. These four rules are now known as The Gunning Principles and are summarised below.

Gunning Principles

  • Proposals must be at a formative stage.
  • Consultation should be honest engagement with residents or colleagues, not a tick box exercise to confirm a decision.
  • There is sufficient information to give ‘intelligent consideration’.
  • Provide honest and transparent information on proposals or options.
  • The use of supporting documents can help here. For example, if you are consulting on policy change, provide consultees with the policy being updated.
  • Adequate time is given for consideration and response.
  • Best practice guidance relating to the period of consultation with residents is 12 weeks. This ensures that everyone has the opportunity to share views.
  • ‘Conscientious consideration’ must be given to consultation responses before a decision is made.
  • Ensure that you have the skills and applications needed to accurately analyse the results of the consultation.
  • Sometimes consultation provides the outcome least favoured by those consulting, however, results must be respected.

Best Practice Guidance

It is also considered best practice to consider the following:

  • The degree of specificity with which an authority should conduct its consultation exercise may be influenced by the identity of those whom it is consulting.
  • The demands of fairness are likely to be higher when an authority contemplates depriving someone of an existing benefit or advantage.
  • To be a lawful consultation, a reasonable and proportionate attempt should have been made to engage with and obtain the views of stakeholders with a significant interest in the issue.

Considerations in Consultation

  • Remember to ask non-leading and unbiased questions.
  • Make sure there aren’t two parts of a question in one question.
  • Don’t try to interpret a respondent’s answers. Always write responses as they have said them.
  • Consider what information you are trying to find out from the question and that the information is relevant.

Recent/Current Consultation Projects

  • The Ashes Playing Field, Howden, Outdoor Multi-Gym Equipment Survey – to understand and capture feedback from the community to establish what gym equipment and exercise classes they would like to see in the park.
  • Pedestrian Area Trial in Saturday Market, Beverley – to encourage more journeys by foot and bike into Beverley town centre.
  • East Riding Leisure, Annual Leisure Survey – to gauge how leisure centres are performing across the East Riding.
  • East Riding Residents’ Communication Consultation – to understand how customers, residents and businesses across the East Riding contact the council and what their experience was.
  • Employee Carer Survey – to identify the impact of caring on ERYC employees.
  • View results of consultations

Last updated: 07/01/2022

The Role of Data and Consultation

Consultation and data analysis can be used by the Council at different times to inform decision making, transformation, policy and service delivery. Specifically consultation can be used for gathering both qualitative and quantitative information, for the purposes of:

  • Strategic Performance to measure performance against our local priorities and understand our reputation with key stakeholders, residents and service users.
  • Strategic Planning to understand the needs of our community; define policy to address those needs and ensure that the way in which services are designed and delivered meets those needs; support the delivery of the Council’s ambitious transformation programme providing efficient and effective services.
  • Operational Planning for specific services to evaluate the impact they have had on service users; review the way the service is delivered and inform transformation / improvement; to understand expectations and satisfaction and to measure risk in relation to policy and service changes as a result of cost reduction or transformation; and provide quality assurance.