A report for the Local Better Regulation Office
in Public Services
This chapter reviewed the existing literature on
the perceived benefits of citizen participation in public services and explored
where evidence indicates that citizen involvement may be applied in the context
of local regulation to improve regulatory outcomes.
It was found that direct citizen participation
is valued as a democratic end in itself, as well as a means of improving public
services. It is coming increasingly to the fore, as the popularity of other
forms of participation diminishes (voting and membership of political parties,
for example) but willingness to engage may, to some extent, be determined by
external conditions, such as the economic climate.
Policymakers and practitioners need to grasp the
opportunity to bring citizens into the decision-making process, when conditions
are conducive. Due attention should be paid to what the public values and, as
far as possible, to embracing those values, but exactly how public officials
respond to citizen participation is under-researched. What research has been
undertaken reveals a concern by officials that they may currently lack the
necessary skills for facilitating participation as part of their daily
Recent models of participation tend to focus on
collaborative and deliberative rather than adversarial politics. Deliberative
participation bringing citizens together to discuss, share and modify issues
and opinions has emerged as one of the most important engagement strategies
in recent years and is consistent with the idea of the Big Society.
While desirable, representativeness is
elusive, and with increased diversity is unlikely to become any easier to
achieve. Lack of representativeness should not however discourage policymakers
and practitioners from seeking ways to involve citizens and improve
accountability but as some individuals have greater capacity to engage than
others, public officials will need to ensure that new ways of producing services
such as regulation do not exacerbate existing inequalities.
A caveat. The evidence for improved outcomes
arising from the use of citizen participation is patchy but what systematic
reviews are available suggest decisionmaking, service quality, and sense of
community are all enhanced.
The evidence base for citizen participation with
local regulators is thin. More work is needed to understand how local
regulators perceive their local communities and how local communities perceive local
regulators within the context of the responsibilities of local authorities as
a whole as a basis for leveraging the potential gains from bringing the
citizen into regulation, where they live at the very local level.
The Citizen and
This chapter reviewed the existing evidence base
in relation to concept of coproduction; the process of involving the users of
goods and services in their design, management, manufacture and/or delivery.
Co-production is both a means of maintaining or
improving provision and, like citizen participation, an end in itself. The
concept combines both the collaborative provision of goods and services and
community development. Co-production therefore addresses individuals both as
consumers of goods and services and citizens embedded in their local
Co-production can improve efficiency as
providers tend to become more sensitive to user needs when co-producing with
them, but citizens should not be treated as experts. Their role is as citizens,
to express their aspirations, values and concerns and to act as a co-productive
partner where appropriate. To do otherwise can diminish the value placed on
professional knowledge, which in turn may lead to suboptimal outcomes for
Regulation is a difficult concept to grasp and
so in co-producing regulation, it is important to focus on the positive
benefits and what the public values (safer streets rather than the detail of
rules and regulations on alcohol sales, for example). In a true co-production
model regulation can be defined not solely as constraining action a means of
minimising the risk to harm to citizens but also enabling optimising the quantity
and quality of goods and services to the public.
The Citizen in
This chapter reviewed the existing evidence base
in relation to co-regulation, a process which, at its most basic level, entails
sharing regulatory responsibilities between the state and regulatees.
It combines aspects of both statutory regulation
(regulators are authorised by legislation) and self-regulation (regulatees
determine the detail of how to comply with the principles laid down in the
legislation or by the regulator.). However, unlike voluntary self-regulation,
by trade bodies for example, co-regulation operates within a legislative
framework which empowers the regulator to take action in cases of
In both co-regulation and voluntary
self-regulation the citizen has a potential role to play a role as a
co-productive partner, for example by monitoring compliance with standards (the
Food Standards Agencys Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme, for example) and by using,
providing and disseminating information on the quality of goods and services
(the Trip Advisor model, for example)
The co-production of regulation by regulators,
regulatees and citizens may enhance regulatory regime legitimacy by
demonstrating citizens are incorporated into the decision-making process, and
can lower compliance costs by demonstrating to regulatees that they too are
central to the process. However, it relies on high levels of trust being
generated and maintained between the various participants. There is a risk of
reputational loss for the regulator if trust diminishes, for example due to
fear of regulatory capture.
Given the need to manage the process of bringing
in the citizen to regulation,perhaps co-manager is a better term than
co-producer. It may more accurately describe the real role of the regulator in
such a regime.