Ministers fail to respond to nearly a third of Welsh Government consultations

A consultation on rules for the welfare of horses ended six months ago Credit: ITV News, Adrian Masters

The Welsh Government has failed to respond to nearly a third of the consultation exercises it's launched to find out people's views on its plans since it was elected nearly two years ago.

55 out of 194 consultations are listed as 'awaiting outcome' on the official website. 16 still haven't been responded to despite being completed more than a year ago.

They include exercises to find out what people's views are on a huge range of issues from rules on the welfare of horse, recycling targets for businesses and the fees paid by people living in park homes.

The Welsh Government says it responds to most consultations within 12 weeks of them ending but that some 'may take longer to evaluate.'

However opponents say 'it smacks of lazy government' by Labour.

According to the Welsh Government database, 194 consultation exercises have been launched since 9th May 2016. The Assembly election was held on 5th May 2016.

18 consultations are still ongoing or 'open' while 176 are recorded as completed or 'closed.'

Of those closed consultations, 55 are still recorded as 'awaiting outcome.'

7 have been closed for more than 8 months without a response and 16 are still awaiting a response more than year after they finished gathering views.

One has been closed for nearly two years without an outcome.

Consultations are an important evidence-gathering step in the policy making process. We follow best practice guidelines for consultations and, in the vast majority of cases, we publish responses within 12 weeks of the end of the consultation. On occasion – and when a particularly high number of responses have been received - it can take longer to properly evaluate and collate the responses before we can move to the outcome stage.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Case study: welfare of horses consultation

Credit: ITV News, Adrian Masters

A consultation on developing a new code of practice on the welfare of horses ended six months ago and is still awaiting a ministerial response.

It would have updated the rules which owners of horses are obliged to follow in looking after them.

RSPCA Cymru told me it saw the move to update the code as 'very important' and made a submission to the consultation which made use of the organisation's scientific expertise as well as the views of many of its members.

We take all consultation opportunities where there’s an animal welfare element really seriously. This equine code of practice was an example of how we were doing that.

We were feeding in animal welfare viewpoints informed by our scientific experts to make sure that code of practice was updated and refreshed and is relevant as possible here in wales.

We want to see a response as soon as possible. We appreciate that these things can take time. The code of practice is a very important document [and] we have devoted considerable resources to working with the Welsh Government to make sure that document is refreshed and updated.

We want to see it updated as soon as possible so that we can use that new document on the ground with our inspectors. We take all consultation responses very seriously and want to see those animal welfare viewpoints that we feed in taken on board as quickly as possible and it’s just one of the many ways we engage with government.

In this case we appreciate the code of practice is an important document that will take a lot of time to update but we have submitted a strong response based around animal welfare and we are keen to see the response from the Welsh government when possible.

– Chris O'Brien

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said he's disappointed by the fact that nearly a third of consultations haven't been replied to.

These are important listening exercises to what the people of Wales want to happen on their behalf, and a government that doesn’t listen to the people is showing arrogance and maybe that is what the problem is with the Welsh Labour Government at the moment. They’ve just been here too long. These are their own consultations. They launched them. It is the very least they can do is reply to the views of the people of Wales which they have sought. If a third of the consultations have gone unanswered that to me smacks of lazy government, and it’s just not good enough.

– Andrew RT Davies AM, Opposition leader

When I spoke to the RSCPA's Chris O'Brien, he raised another concern about the way consultations are operated and in particular, the way that individual members who respond to them are often grouped together as a single response.

With many consultations and similar kind of Welsh government processes, we enable our supporters to have an opportunity to feed their views into consultations. So we often provide them with the opportunity through a campaign action or similar to submit responses to the Welsh Government.

For us that is a statement of intent about how important the public treat animal welfare. We often see a huge response from the public to consultations. We saw it recently on the issue of wild animals in circuses. For example, where the public do that it’s really important that the welsh government fully respect the views of the public not just the sectoral bodies as well. And often demonstrates the strength of feeling there exists on a matter such as animal welfare.

We have raised to the Welsh Government that on occasions those responses from the public have been bundled together described as things like social media responses or campaign responses. For us they are individual consultation responses that need to be taken very, very, seriously and it’s great to see the public engaging via the RSPCA or otherwise with any consultation on animal welfare.

– Chris O'Brien