Public consultations - 5 keys to organize them

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Public Administration, as we know it, is about to change. Looming responsible is the Law 39/2015, of the Common Administrative Procedure of Public Administrations (LPAC). One of the novelties introduced by the law is the new mandatory process of prior public consultations, whereby online citizen participation will be an essential requirement in the drafting of regulations.

In this post we explain everything you need to know to comply with this aspect of the regulations. We also give you 5 keys to get the most out of them. If you have any questions or want to know more, please contact us.

The end of the moratorium

The LPAC is a law that regulates, since its entry into force in 2016, the external relations between the Public Administration and citizens. It aims to adapt the functioning of the Administration to the new digital media. And thus achieve a more agile, transparent and interoperable operation. An ambitious goal that, due to its complexity, has already been postponed on several occasions.

However, there will be no more moratoriums. The deadlines for digital transformation for digital transformation expire in just a few months. By then, all municipalities will have to be operating fully electronically.

The opinion of citizens matters

The digital transformation will affect, among others, the procedure for drafting regulations, as established in Article 133 of the LPAC. If Law 57/2003, on Measures for the Modernization of Local Government, in its article 70 bis, specified that local councils must promote the use of technology to facilitate the participation of neighbors; the new regulation goes one step further. As of 2020, it will be mandatory for local entities to comply with a new procedure: Prior public consultations. What do they consist of? Before drafting a regulatory project, the opinion of citizens, businesses and associations of the municipality will have to be sought through a website for citizen participation.

Public consultations shall be carried out when the regulatory initiative is at the draft or preliminary draft stage. According to the doctrine, it must be present both in the procedures for drafting new regulations and in the modification of existing ones. Citizens and organizations wishing to express their opinion must have at least twenty days to participate in the consultation. The competent body to carry it out is the Area or Department to which the regulatory project or preliminary draft in question corresponds, and it must do so through a citizen participation website. In other words, in order to develop any regulatory initiative, it will be essential to have a website where citizens can obtain information and express their opinion on the matter.

5 keys to making the most of public consultations

The idea is for citizens to give their opinion about the problems that the regulation intends to solve, to what extent it is necessary and whether they agree with the objectives it pursues. But it is also intended that, if they do not agree, they will be in time to propose alternatives. In short, what is intended with the prior consultation process is that citizens provide useful information to the councilors and officials of the City Council. Therefore, it is important to encourage citizens to participate and get them to make valuable proposals. So how can we get the most out of public consultations? We give you 5 keys:

  1. Interact with citizens: In order to stimulate participation, it is essential to correctly manage the incentives and expectations of citizens. They must feel listened to. After a consultation, it is advisable to assess the main contributions and indicate the reasons for incorporating some of them and rejecting others. The Manchester Regional Government and its collaborative regulation project is an example of good management in this regard.
  2. Be careful with tone and language: Normally, citizens are not familiar with rulemaking procedures; this makes it difficult for them to participate. Using clear language and fresh communication can yield very good results. Both the City of Vienna and the City of Elche were able to increase their participation rates by applying this type of strategy.
  3. Develop a communication plan: Citizens will not be able to participate in the consultation if they do not know it exists. Making it known and raising awareness of the importance of participating in it is key to achieve valuable contributions. The Consell Insular de Menorca designed a communication plan that combined face-to-face workshops with online actions and achieved quality proposals that became real public policies.
  4. Approve common guidelines for all prior consultations: Councils can undertake many regulatory projects. If each pre-consultation process had its own particularities, it would be extremely confusing. Your citizens will find it easier to participate if all consultations operate under common guidelines. A good example of this is the guidelines approved by the Madrid City Council.
  5. Have an attractive and interoperable participation website: It is essential to take care of the participation website. It must be clear, simple and accessible. In addition, as established by Law 40/2015 on the Legal Regime of the Public Sector, it must be interoperable. The better it is integrated into the City Council's website, the more comfortable it will be to navigate it. A good website will attract more citizens and will have a positive effect on participation. City councils such as Rivas Vaciamadrid already have an attractive and interoperable web service that is obtaining very good results.

Online participation is a priority

Everything indicates that there will be no more postponements. The forecasts of the European eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 and the recommendations of the European Union and the OECD are very clear: online citizen participation must be implemented as soon as possible.

Ignoring the prior public consultation process can have serious repercussions for your municipality. After October 2020, all those regulations that omit public consultations could be declared null and void. This is why more and more localities realize the importance of complying with Article 133 LPAC. Although, as of today, not all are equally prepared.

How to turn public consultations into an opportunity

Opening up to online participation is not easy. The first stumbling block is when it comes to choosing a technology that fits our needs and our pocket. At Kuorum we have been helping local and regional governments in several countries with their technology and citizen participation projects for years. Ensuring that they manage to increase participation rates while reducing the workload of their teams. And thus turning each participatory process into an opportunity to better understand the problems and desires of citizens. If you are interested in complying with the LPAC in terms of citizen participation and you think we can help you, contact us without obligation.

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