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What is the Bristol Citizens' Panel?
The Citizens' Panel is Bristol's biggest think-tank. we set up the Bristol Citizens' Panel in 1998 as a way to keep the council informed about public opinion. The panel is made up of over 2,000 people from across Bristol who regularly share their views and ideas on a wide range of issues.
Who is on the Citizens' Panel?
The panel includes people from all backgrounds and all areas of Bristol. Residents are randomly selected and invited to join the panel. To ensure that the panel mirrors the population of the city, people are selected on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, disability and where they live. The complete panel is designed to be representative of the city as a whole. In order to keep the panel fresh, we invite more residents to join the panel every couple of years.
What do panel members do?
Panel members complete up to three questionnaires a year - they can choose to complete either paper questionnaires sent to their home or electronic surveys on our website. Each questionnaire typically contains a number of different sections covering different issues. Panellists can complete the whole survey or just the sections that interest them.
Panel members are also invited to attend group discussions or workshops on particular issues they're interested in. Since 2008, these focus groups have discussed satisfaction with the council, a review of customer services, views on the council's complaints procedure and involvement in a peer review of the council conducted by the Improvement and Development Agency fo Local Government (IDEA).
In October 2009 as part of Local Democracy Week panellists were invited to attend or participate online in our first 'Bristol Question Time Live!' event and ask questions of the leaders of the three main political parties, the Police and Sustrans.
What kinds of questions are they asked?
We work closely with the local health authority, Avon & Somerset Police, Bristol's universities and other local organisations such as the water authority, Empire and Commonwealth Museum and the ss Great Britain; so each survey tends to cover a wide range of issues.
What happens with the results?
Results of surveys are passed back to the people who can make changes: the relevant service managers, senior council officers and elected councillors. External partners, such as the health authority, Police and Bristol's universities are passed results of any surveys that are relevant to their service area.
Panel members are kept informed of the results of the surveys via the panel newsletter Feedback, and results often appear in the local media or are used in other council publications and press releases.
Why have a citizens' panel?
We are not alone in having a citizens' panel - all our neighbouring authorities have panels, as do many councils the length and breadth of the country. Below are some of the reasons which have led us and other councils to establish a citizens' panel.
- Ongoing panels are more cost effective than one-off surveys.
- Provides good quality statistically representative research.
- Gives a more balanced response than traditional ways of consulting with people.
- Encourages greater understanding of decision-making in the council.
- Contributes to democratic renewal and encourages participation in democratic processes.
- We have a duty to consult under the Government's Best Value programme. Maintaining a panel helps us to meet our consultation requirements.
How we are using the panel?
Since the panel was established in 1998, more than one hundred questions have been put to the Citizens' Panel each year. Here are some of the ways we are using the panel:
- To collect information on perceptions of the council and the city/local area.
- To monitor performance of the council - as a whole and as individual services.
- To strengthen and supplement Best Value reviews, and the work of scrutiny commissions, the Cabinet and Executive members.
- To identify participants for consultations on specific issues.
- To enable the council to work in collaboration with external partners.
- As a vehicle for developing public relations and improving communication.
Consultation, Research and Intelligence team Room G27, Communications and Marketing City Hall Bristol, BS1 5TR
- Email: email@example.com
- Work: 0117 922 2848