Citizen Participation: A Critical Look at the Democratic Adequacy of Government Consultations

John Morison at Oxford Journal of Legal Studies: “Consultation procedures are used increasingly in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This account looks critically at consultation as presently practised, and suggests that consulters and consultees need to do much more to ensure both the participatory validity and democratic value of such exercises. The possibility of a ‘right to be consulted’ is examined. Some ideas from a governmentality perspective are developed, using the growth of localism as an example, to suggest that consultation is often a very structured interaction: the actual operation of participation mechanisms may not always create a space for an equal exchange between official and participant views. Examples of best practice in consultation are examined, before consideration is given to recent case law from the UK seeking to establish basic ground rules for how consultations should be organised. Finally, the promise of consultation to reinvigorate democracy is evaluated and weighed against the correlative risk of ‘participatory disempowerment’…(More)”.