Public consultation on proposals to merge Warwick and Stratford District Councils will start as early as next month
Process will begin with a telephone survey of residents
Public consultation on proposals to merge Warwick and Stratford District Councils to create a South Warwickshire authority will start as early as next month.
Simon Purfield, the performance, consultation and insight manager at Stratford District Council, explained that the entire process - which would also include businesses, town and parish councils, and neighbouring authorities - would need to be wrapped up in time for final decisions to be made in December.
He told today's [Wednesday's] overview and scrutiny meeting of Stratford District Council: “The open consultation on this would start in the last week of August and go on until about October 18 allowing the time we need.
“All the other focus groups would happen in September/October and we would need all the results to be in by the middle of November to get through the decision making process by the middle of December.”
Mr Purfield explained that the first phase of consultation would be through a telephone survey where 600 residents, split equally between the two districts, would be called and asked a series of questions. Those chosen would represent the different groups living in the area.
An open questionnaire on the council websites would be available to everyone over a period of up to eight weeks and there would also be consultation with various resident focus groups as well as businesses and other councils. Contact would also be made with other key stakeholders including health organisations, colleges and MPs.
In his report to councillors, Mr Purfield added: “I strongly recommend that the majority of the consultation is managed by an independent company. This independence is crucial. We must consider that if the consultation was done in-house, an ‘unconscious bias’ may occur when analysing responses.
“Good supporting information will be key and will be as, or even more, important than the consultation itself. It would be necessary to receive assistance from both district council communications teams to produce the material.
“This will need to be well planned and financed. The better the information provided, the better the decision making. This will clarify plans on the part of the two councils as to what exactly will be involved in the process of going to an enlarged council area.
“This supporting information should be in place before any consultation takes place in order for people to digest the information. We would produce a document available on the website and used to inform those completing the open questionnaire.”