The method by which the public authority chooses to conduct consultation at this stage must ensure a fair opportunity to present pertinent information and to provide the public authority with a sound basis for decision, without rendering decision making by the public authority unmanageable. It will be important to ensure that necessary time and resources are dedicated to the consultation process to encourage and maximise participation particularly by marginalized groups.
Wide awareness raising of the consultation exercise is essential to inform the public and relevant groups about the policy being assessed, and to invite comments on it. This may include press releases, prominent advertisements in the general press and specialist press of affected groups, the Internet and direct invitations to groups which are likely to be interested in and able to represent interests and views which would otherwise be inadequately represented.
The information used by the public authority in assessing the impact of the policy must be made available on request to those consulted. In making information available it will not be sufficient or appropriate for a public authority to state that no data are available and therefore no impact or adverse impact has been identified.
Public authorities should ensure that they have a system in place to effectively manage consultation processes. This system should include information on past, present and planned consultations. This is invaluable in order to obtain information from previous consultation exercises, which may be relevant to an upcoming consultation exercise and which may help to avoid asking the same questions again.