Consultation is a word that promises much but very often delivers little.
And in these times of budget restraints and cost savings, it’s a word we hear a lot.
Often there’s a suspicion that it gives councils, authorities or employers the ability to say they’ve asked what those affected think before making a decision they had in mind anyway.
That’s why it’s good to see a consultation having an impact in the case of the proposed parking rate increases for ‘premium’ parts of Portsmouth.
These proposals – for fees of up to £3 an hour in popular parts of the city – should never have seen the light of day in the first place.
When businesses face mounting pressure from the economic gloom, internet rivals and out-of-town megastores, it’s unhelpful to pile on more problems.
So, when the council asked businesses what they thought, they didn’t hold back in making their feelings known.
As Paul Eldred, landlord of The Marmion Tavern, warned, businesses could have ended up closing as a result.
In this case, the council listened – and as we report today the proposals have been ditched.
It’s a clear example of how speaking up can make all the difference and we commend those who stuck up for their trade and their city.
We should also give credit here to the council for listening, realising that the plan was a non-starter and consigning it to the bin.
These proposals were invented by the officers of the city council’s parking department who may have seen them as a way of keeping a good turnover of cars in those areas – or may have spotted a way to bring in more funds.
As Cllr Jason Fazackarley, in charge of traffic and transport on the city council, rightly points out there isn’t much room in Portsmouth to park.
He speaks of finding ‘alternative ways’ to address that problem and we will be interested to see what they are.
And we trust that when the time comes to debate them, the council once again carriesout a decent consultation – and listens to the results.