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CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Engagement standards

What is ‘engagement’ and why do we do it? 

When the council is considering how best to improve services, or what the future direction of the organisation might be, ideas are typically invited from members of the public within a process known as ‘engagement’. In some cases, there is a statutory obligation to get feedback from service users and interested parties; in other cases, talking to people is just the best way to get good information on how the council can improve and to build relationships with those we serve.  

What’s the difference between ‘Engagement’ and ‘Consultation’?

Engagement is when the council reaches out to talk about something that affects both the council and local people.

Engagement can cover any subject, from the council’s long-term corporate priorities to specific changes in a particular village. It might involve just giving out information, focus groups or even delegating the decision to the community affected.

Consultation is just one form of engagement. As a local authority, we have a statutory obligation to run consultations on some kinds of changes.

Consultations have specific standards and timescales that the council must follow to ensure that the consultation is meaningful and that the council is not subject to legal challenge. Consultations are more formal, more structured, and time-specified forms of engagement.  

Engaging for the future

Leicestershire County Council has a strong record of engaging with communities on our services and strategies. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought engagement into focus for councils across the country as both local authorities and citizens have faced new challenges.

As we all find a way forward, good engagement will help us understand what people’s needs and preferences are, and ensure that we make the best possible decision.

Recognising the challenges ahead, the council aims to improve our engagement in the following ways:   

  • Closing the Loop: Ensuring that we communicate back how local people’s ideas have influenced the final decision made 
  • Using a wider range of methods: We have a wide range of approaches available and we must use these to ensure that our engagement is maximally insightful, inclusive and robust.
  • Engaging marginalised communities: Some members of local communities may struggle to engage with the council and our approach must enable participation from groups including older people, children and adolescents, those with protected characteristics, and rural communities. 
  • Reinforcing best practice: Training and support is available within the council to ensure that we follow national standards of best practice in all the engagement work we do. 

Our engagement principles

These three principles set out the most important considerations for all of our engagement activity:

Inclusive

We involve all those who have a stake on an issue by understanding our communities, actively reaching out to different groups, and tailoring our approach effectively. 

Transparent

We build trust with citizens by being open and clear about our thinking and decision-making.

Meaningful

Our engagement activity is sufficiently well defined and well executed such that local people are able to participate fully and effectively influence our decision-making. 

Our officers are held to national standards of best practice and are expected to be able to define the success criteria for their engagement activity at the outset and with reference to the target groups to engage and the outcomes to be achieved.

Engagement methods and tools

The council has a range of support and tools that officers can draw on to design and implement effective engagement. These include:

  • Dedicated support staff and forums for officers to get advice 
  • Equalities assessment via the Leicestershire Equalities Challenge Group 
  • Corporate website pages to promote and host engagement activity 
  • A wide range of surveying and data tools
  • Targeted publicity across a range of media
  • Links to the Consultation Institute for external advice and national trends

Engagement - a work in progress

It is likely that the communities the council serves and how the council operates will continue to change at pace over the coming years.

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