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“Issues” relate to the topics or concerns that actors may have. Pacione suggests that there is a competition between creating “effective administration” through centralizing activities and attempting to obtain “maximum accountability ... [that requires] greater decentralization” [5]. Participation can operate at different scales, through different levels of government, and within varying departments, for example. In part, this competition may help governments to outline which issues are suitable for public participation. This can be related to the problem Edinburgh officers had when trying to find a representative public and a practicable strategic activity within a set time. In contrast, Rushcliffe’s local exercise occurred because of a county council’s strategic policy, and unitary authorities have issues that often span strategic and local contexts, as found in Lewisham. This variation was partly the basis for case selection, but specific matters should also be of concern.
Illeris’s work in Danish land-use planning showed that most citizens were effective when commenting on very local issues, with some capable of viewing a “greater context” [12]. The quantity of responses in the cases would seem to reinforce this point, where the strategic community plan had less response than the local housing allocation. Participants in Lewisham, in contrast, demonstrated Illeris’s “greater context” and developed a degree of political professionalism. During a discussion on library closures, panel members made tactical rather than general suggestions, indicating their ability to deal with issues that did not necessarily immediately apply to them in either a physical, social, or emotional sense. As such, certain issues will appeal to different audiences, impacting on the numbers participating.
Once a consultation process is in place, an audience may have their own issues and use it as a means to voice their general concerns, relating well to Illeris’s suggestion that other “political problems” will surface during consultation [12]. For example, in Rushcliffe some citizens presented issues that should have been expressed during the previous County Council’s structure plan consultation exercises. Officers expected this but noted that such submissions could not be formally accepted. Interviewees also suggested that responses could have been greater if some residents understood that, unlike the local plan, the structure plan’s allocation was not fixed. Because citizens see local authorities as one entity, they frequently do not recognize separate issues, consultation exercises, departments, or services, particularly where services are delivered by more than one authority. It is important that those involved in initiating exercises not only expect this but also make potential participants aware of the restricted nature of an exercise, explaining how a participant’s contributions will be dealt with if they do not meet the focus of the exercise.

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