Government consultation changes will harm charities, warns lobbyist

Written by Andrew Holt

A leading lobbyist has slammed the Government’s decision to abandon a longstanding commitment to conduct public consultations over 12 weeks, claiming the decision will hamstring charities’ ability to contribute to policy development and comment on Government plans.

Chris Whitehouse, managing director of Westminster-based public affairs agency the Whitehouse Consultancy, which advises charities on how to engage with public policy development, has claimed the “retrograde” announcement could result in no consultation taking place on some initiatives, or consultations lasting as little as two weeks – limiting or even preventing opportunities for charity to engage on key policy decisions.

Under revised Consultation Principles, government departments will be allowed to follow a range of timescales for consultation if previous engagement has taken place.

Whitehouse has also claimed that making the announcement of the Government’s decision on the day Parliament rose for summer recess is “extraordinarily cynical”.

Whitehouse said: “In place of the commitment to 12 week consultations, what we’ll be left with is an incredibly arbitrary system that will result in too little time being given to consultations on key policies and will severely limit the opportunities charities have to engage in public policy development and comment on the decisions that will most affect them.

“Make no mistake, this is a real step backwards and the Government’s decision to impose this new rules unilaterally and without consultation should send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a interest in public policy.

"Announcing this on the day Parliament rises for a recess lasting several months is also extraordinarily cynical.”

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