Memorandum by the London Borough of Sutton
Sutton has a long track record of citizen consultation.
It has carried out a Borough-Wide Survey every two years since
1987, and holds a regular programme of smaller surveys among residents
and service users. It has carried out a budget consultation exercise
for the last seven years. Sutton has increased its range of consultation
methods because of Best Value and other local government developments.
The following is three examples of citizen participation in the
last year that we consider innovative.
Sutton ran seven Best Value reviews in 1999.
It was clear that some residents would have the capacity to give
relevant informed opinions to more than one of the reviews. Therefore
we held some focus groups aimed not at specific review, but as
part of a corporate consultation programme. A second advantage
was that we were able to speak to non-users of services. Users
of our libraries and adult education college, for example, have
traditionally given these services a high satisfaction score.
We used these focus groups to target non-users of these services
to find out if there was any obstacle among sections of the community
that prevented them using the services.
The cost of the four focus groups, facilitated
by an independent third party, was £9,000. There were economies
of scale because several services shared the cost. The exercise
was a success, participants happily took part and we will repeat
Sutton held a Listening Day in Sutton High Street
as part of its contribution to Local Democracy Week. A rota of
elected members and senior officers staffed a mobile caravan and
invited passers-by to tell them what was on their mind.
More than 150 residents took part. We sorted
some problems and queries immediately by contacting the relevant
officer by mobile 'phone. In other cases we took details and responded
to the resident by letter or 'phone.
The event was cheap to run, the total cost was
under £500 for items including publicity and stationery.
This does not include the cost of officers' and members' time.
Residents said that they welcomed the opportunity to meet Councillors
in this informal way. We did not publicise the event widely enough
and this is something we would improve if we repeat the exercise.
Sutton produced its first Community Plan in
June 1999. We delivered this document to all 74,000 households
in the borough, local businesses and other stakeholders. We included
a reply-paid consultation card with the plan, this is the first
time that we have consulted all residents in the same consultation
We asked residents to comment on the Council's
objectives for this year and to say if they thought we should
keep these objectives next year. We also asked them to let us
know which model of political leadership best suited Sutton Council.
About 2,700 residents responded. We analysed the responses for
strategic directors to inform the action-planning.
The cost of the Community Plan was about £30,000,
including distribution. By combining the consultation with the
plan, we kept the extra cost to a minimum.