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Leeds Citizens' Panel - what does it do?

Simon Binns questions the usefulness of the council-run panel

Written by . Published on April 28th 2011.

Leeds Citizens' Panel - what does it do?

A PANEL of 2,000 people chosen to represent Leeds by the city council could barely be bothered to fill in a recent survey about the future of Kirkgate Market.

Only a quarter of the Leeds Citizens’ Panel – selected by the council to ‘broadly represent’ the entire city – responded to the consultation request, despite being supplied with Freepost envelopes.

And only three of those people were under the age of 25. The highest number of respondents were in the 65+ age group – 132 people.

The panel, set up in 2005 ‘to help local people influence decisions’ according to the council’s recent report on the market, is retained and administered by the council and issued to contractors ‘on an ad hoc basis to conduct consultation’ such as this one. 

"We know that not everyone responds to the surveys that we send them, but that’s not unusual."

There are currently 2,000 active members on the panel, and the report says they all received a postal self-completion survey pack in January 2011 inviting them to take part.

In total, just 487 panellists returned a completed survey, giving an overall response rate of 28 per cent.  

In total, fewer than 1,000 people were surveyed for the consultation, with 496 completed surveys from members of the public who were not on the panel.

Confidential asked Leeds City Council about return rates from the Citizens’ Panel for previous consultations. There were two in 2010 – one on leadership, which saw 545 surveys returned, and another on budget plans, which had 499 responses.

So an all three occasions, around 75 per cent of the panel hasn’t bothered to engage. They haven’t done what they said they would. So what’s the use?

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said the panel now had around 700 ‘non-responders’ and although it would like to refresh the panel, there were ‘no resources available’ to be able to do it.

“We currently have 2,000 volunteer members on the Leeds Citizens' Panel and we know that not everyone responds to the surveys that we send them, but that’s not unusual,” she said.

“We are working to increase the number of people on the panel as it’s a valuable resource for gathering opinion from across the city. We ask people that are interested in joining the panel to register their interest via our website.

“Not everyone can get on the panel straightway, as we need the right balance of people from different age groups, backgrounds and neighbourhoods in order to get a good representation of views.“



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