It is intended as a way to give people a say and perhaps save some money in the long run, but has consultation in Brighton and Hove gone too far?

City leaders have been told there are currently 101 separate pieces of consultation into areas as diverse as waste disposal, business; eco-energy and singing groups – and experts said it was not a complete list.

Bosses also revealed the cost was only available for 21 of the schemes – and came to £203,000.

However, Brighton and Hove City Council, which is carrying out a number of the consultations, said it was important to find out what residents and visitors thought.

It also defended the costs, adding not all consultations carry similar sums.

The details were revealed at a meeting of the Brighton and Hove Strategic Partnership, a group made up of decision-makers in the city. Consultations were recorded as being carried out by Brighton and Hove City Council, Sussex Police, East Sussex Fire and Res- cue Service and NHS groups.

Some are open to everyone, others ask selected groups for their views.

Roger French, chairman of Brighton and Hove Strategic Partnership, said: “For some time there has been quite differing views into consultations in the city.

“Some are thinking there’s not enough, others think there’s consultation overload.

“It’s the beginning of a piece of work to try to bring some sense of exactly what’s going on and to try to strike a balance.”

Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “There is an awful lot of
consultation going on across the city, much of which is duplicated, and very little of it is actually costed.

"This cannot be right, particularly at a time when all public sec- tor organisations are under financial pressure.

“I know from experience at the council that consul- tation varies widely in quality and so it makes sense to rationalise it where possible. As always it is very important that taxpayers know what their money is being spent on.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Consultations are important for a variety of reasons. Some of the consultations are statutory and are required by Government before important policy decisions can be made or strategies developed. Failure to carry out adequate and robust con- sultation can lead to judi- cial review on decisions taken by the council.

“Consultations are also a vitally important source of feedback.

“It is important to take residents’ and service users’ views into account before we deliver services for them, or make decisions which will impact on their lives.”

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