To many clients, the ability of SRA to plan, implement and monitor consultation is our most well-known strength. In particular we have embraced new approaches including the use of social media and outreach work to achieve representative samples. A particular interest is so called ‘hard to reach’ groups which can range from high earning business occupations through to people with learning difficulties.

We have recently worked with the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transport to co-author a chapter for their new Manual ‘Involving the Public in the Urban Environment’ (link) and also developed a Public Engagement Tool Kit for the Heathrow Community Engagement Board for use in the discussion about airport expansion (link)

We are also supporting developers to carry out consultation appropriate to the UK planning process. SRA are often called in by organisations to manage consultation for controversial policy areas such as road building or waste management. The challenge is to ensure that people are engaged on a meaningful level within available resources, to avoid unnecessary delay and to reduce the risk of judicial review.

Another current project is working with disabled people to understand priorities and trade-offs in relation to independent travel. This has included annual surveys at the Mobility Road Show, mystery shopping exercises with disabled people and interactive workshops at residential homes.

Budget Consultation

SRA have frequently designed, organised and facilitated consultations for local authorities with residents in their area. These have included citizens’ panels, citizens’ juries, workshops and discussion groups on a variety of subjects including strategic plans for housing, licensing policy and area committees.

However, a central theme in this strand of work has been budget consultation for local authorities. Public involvement in this area is crucial to ensure that changes to budget allocations are acceptable to the general public and that popular services remain operative.

It is important that participants are presented with an accurate representation of the actual budget in order to ensure that their recommendations are feasible. Materials are therefore produced in consultation with the local authority in order to ensure that the figures match the actual Council budget, and that non-discretionary items are clearly identified.

Examples of work in this area include:

Budget consultations in Oxford, which comprised a Citizen’ Jury, Citizens’ Panel survey and staff consultation with 10% of the workforce.

In Leicester SRA ran a series of workshops to discuss Council budgets with young people, businesses and the general public.

In these cases and others SRA have developed a series of exercises to allow residents to produce alternative budgets, prioritise particular services and recommend cost savings.

Children with Police in Watford.