IF I had a fiver for every time I have heard the words “bogus consultation” I‘d be very well off. 

Though, to be honest, that was mostly in the last century when everyone was still learning how to consult effectively and before organisations realised that it was a good idea to explain their final decisions.

The most meaningless consultation I ever saw was to ask whether drugs for erectile dysfunction should be more widely available. 204 responses – all said “yes” but the government of the day decided to retain the status quo. Really? Can anyone tell me what the point of that little exercise was?

The consultation which I recall had the most active participation was on the proposed closures of local community hospitals in 2005. Public meetings were rammed, with people trying to get in through the windows and crowds standing outside venues in solidarity. On this occasion people power had a very positive effect on retaining local services. 

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I mention all this because, at the moment, I am very aware of a number of consultations that are worthy of attention.

Closest to home, at borough council level, is the next iteration of the Borough Local Plan. This decides the housing allocations and planning policies which will shape decision making up until 2040. What do you think of the housing allocations? What do you think of the potential of the erosion of the local gaps, which currently help settlements keep clear boundaries and identities? 

I’ve also been very exercised by the proposed changes at Hampshire Hospitals. Streamlining services and having fewer centres of excellence is medically proven to improve outcomes. A prime example is the improved outcomes when stroke services were rationalised. It also sounds like a good idea to try and ensure that planned surgery suffers fewer disruptions but the downside is that Winchester will replace its Accident and Emergency Department with a Minor Injuries Unit and its maternity unit will lose the obstetricians and become midwife led. We all have our own opinions on the changes and I have particular concerns about the potential impact on Southampton General which is already very stretched. 

But if you still think that consultations are rubbish then we have a consultation on that as well! The future of the recycling centre at Casbrook, much used by Romsey residents, is under a cloud as Hampshire County Council is looking for ways of making the books balance. 

So there is a choice – if you have strong feelings about any of the above then make your feelings known. Let the decision makers know what you think is good and what is bad or what the impact of proposed changes will be. So I urge you to get involved, have your say and help shape the future of local services. Apathy is not an option. 

Sandra Gidley