Public consultations are one of the ways to get opinions, states or positions of a specific group of people in a case that concerns them directly or indirectly. Public consultations can be directed to a group of people or institutions. They concern issues that interest a given community for various reasons – financial, ideological, ethnical etc.
They usually take the form of a dialogue between a person or an entity proposing the implementation of changes and the community. They are carried out, for example:
- before the adoption or change of the wording of legal acts,
- before implementing local projects (eg construction, investment) affecting the lives or jobs of residents,
- in order to get the opinion of the community before making a controversial decision by self-government units.
The main purpose of public consultations is to obtain opinions and exchange views, not only to present ready-made plans and solutions and to wait for their acceptance. During consultations, the person conducting the meeting or project diagnoses the needs of a given community, which often goes beyond the consulted issue, giving local authorities, institutions or territorial units useful information about a given group.
Public consultations are not binding – they don’t give a group that is asked to think about the direct possibility of making a decision in a given case. However, they are at the same time something more than just public information – they should take place before the implementation of changes or the start of a given project in order to change it or amend it based on public opinion or opposition.
There are two types of public consultations:
- obligatory – for example with the inhabitants of the commune before joining two local government units or passing the statute of an auxiliary unit,
- optional – in matters affecting the life, work or earnings of residents of a given community.