Whitehall ministers intend to slash official timetables for consultations on major policy changes – but have not consulted outside bodies on the plan


UNISON has warned of a legal ‘nightmare’ if ministers implement a plan to slash the official 3-month consultation period for major government policy changes.

It says scrapping the minimum 12-week timescale will only result in ‘hasty, ill-thought through decision making.’

The warning follows an official statement this week from the Coalition’s policy minister in the Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin, proposing cutting the default 12-week window to as little as two weeks, beginning in the autumn.

All consultations should in future be ‘digital by default’, he says.

UNISON says it supports a more flexible timescale to allow a longer upper limit for complex policy making decisions, but said the 12-week period should remain as a minimum.

Assistant general secretary, Karen Jennings, said: “Cutting the 12 week consultation period will allow ill-thought through policy making decisions to come onto the statute book, which is then a nightmare to unravel.

“It is vital that all parties affected by policy changes have sufficient time to consider the implications of changes and 12 weeks should be the minimum.”

In his statement, Oliver Letwin says: ‘The Civil Service Reform Plan commits the Government to improving policy making and implementation with a greater focus on robust evidence, transparency and engaging with key groups earlier in the process.’

Says Karen Jennings: “It is ironic that the Government failed to consult on this change, opting instead to get feedback on how it should be implemented, not if it should be implemented at all.”

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