https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/09/09/consultations-style-and-content-format-guidance/

Consultations: style and content format guidance (updated 9 April 2014)

The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

All government consultations must be accessible to the public and are in one place: on GOV.UK. The consultation principles review team in Cabinet Office has defined a consultation as ‘a document which requires collective agreement across government’. So you should use the GOV.UK consultation format for things like:

  • formal consultations
  • calls for evidence
  • requests for people’s views or feedback on a specific question

The consultation format allows you to present clearly all the information and documents related to a consultation (like public feedback, government responses) at the same URL, using the feedback and outcome tabs shown below. You shouldn’t create extra, separate consultation or publication pages for these documents.

New consultation tabs
New consultation tabs

 

 

 

 

Below is the guidance for adding consultations to GOV.UK.

Page title

Say what the consultation is asking about in plain English. Don’t include the word ‘consultation’ in the title: it looks really strange if you do because it’s hard-coded into the page. If your consultation is a ‘call for evidence’, you can use this phrase in the title (similarly ‘request for feedback’) but make sure you keep to 65 characters for the title length.

Use a colon if you need a connector.

Examples:

  • Building regulations: conservation of fuel and power
  • Whistleblowing framework: call for evidence

Front load the title with the words users are actually using. You can find this out by analysing search data.

Titles must make sense when read in isolation and out of context. Don't use titles that assume people already know what the consultation is about.

Examples of poor titles:

  • UK money strategy 2013
  • Transforming our services
  • EU review of less favoured areas

Summary

Summaries need a full stop. Make it clear there's an opportunity to respond as this might not be obvious from the title. Avoid being too formal, eg 'Consulting pertinent stakeholders on The New Regulations 2013'. The usual 140 character limit applies.

Examples:

  • We’re consulting on proposals to strengthen the content of the NHS Constitution.
  • We’re asking for views on draft 'Statutory document number 14', which outlines responsibilities for the provision of local bus services.

Consultation description (body)

There's a limit of 100 words on this section. Describe what the consultation asks for views on and who might be interested in responding. The description is in the present tense - don't rewrite it when the consultation closes. Don't describe what responses and outcomes you've received, use the relevant sections in Publisher for this. Avoid jargon and if you have to use unfamiliar terms, please explain them.

Example:

We want to know if passengers will benefit from more decisions about local rail services being made locally. We are also inviting local bodies, for example councils and passenger transport executives, to come forward with proposals for taking on decision-making responsibility for passenger rail services in their areas.

Don’t include publication or response dates in the body copy: they're inserted automatically.

Opening date

If you're moving a consultation from another website make sure you keep the same opening date that the consultation has on the site it's moving from. It is important to add a closing date as this will automatically change the state of a consultation from ‘open’ to ‘closed awaiting response’.

Ways to respond

If you are providing a downloadable response form, add it in the ‘Ways to respond’ field in Publisher rather than adding it with other attachments.

Attachments 

Attach the main consultation document, plus any supporting documents that are part of the consultation (for example, technical papers).

Use the official title of the document as the title.

If you have a single document that's been produced specifically for several consultations, attach it to each relevant consultation. If there's other relevant material (for example, an existing ministerial statement) just link to the publication page.

There may be impact assessments that are part of the consultation documentation. If there is a draft impact assessment, then include that as an attachment as part of the ‘Create consultation document’ page. If there is a final impact assessment, include it as an attachment on the ‘Final outcome’ page.

Public feedback

There's a word limit of 100 words to provide an overview of the feedback or to introduce attachments that summarise the feedback received from the public, companies, organisations etc. You add this text in the Detail/Summary field under the Public feedback tab in Publisher.

Use this to indicate roughly how many responses you received, from whom (members of the public, small businesses, large businesses, local government organisations, trade unions etc) and what they said.

Example:

We received 19 responses to the consultation. Most responses to the consultation indicated that the proposed amendment needed to be clearer.

However, some people thought it would be confusing and difficult to ask providers to decide who has to pay energy bills in the Green Deal Plan.

Some people also asked if it would be legally possible for a prospective tenant to be the 'debtor' under an agreement before they became bill payer, and whether this could raise issues of unfairness.’

You can combine multiple responses into a single document if this would be easier for people to read.

Final outcome 

This is for the government response. There's a limit of 100 words. Write it in the present tense (unless you are referring to something that happened before the final outcome stage). You add this text in the Detail/Summary field under the Final outcome tab in Publisher.

Summarise what the response document is - don't repeat too much detail from the download itself if there is one. Concentrate on what government is doing as a result, rather than justifying the position at length.

You should include documents that are part of the consultation as attachments (eg the official government response and final impact assessment).

If the department or agency has produced documents that are a result of the response, you should publish these as separate publications and link to them if it’s relevant (eg implementation plans, command papers, new guidelines). Please only link to publications that are directly related to the consultation.

Don’t add more information or attachments to the page after the government response has been published. If there are long-term consequences for a significant area of government policy, cover it on the relevant policy page (under the ‘Who we consulted’ heading, or on a new supporting page, or as a new publication for example).

1 comment

  1. Hugh Parr-Burman

    It would be great if this system also allowed the public to respond to the consultation online. At the moment you only seem to be able to contact via an email, address or phone number unless it's linked to a legacy consultation system.

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