PLANS to improve how North Yorkshire County Council listens to the public will be under the spotlight today.

Councillors say staff should be trained and given more support in how they consult with residents to make sure it is not just a 'box ticking exercise.'

They have come up with a series of recommendations to improve their consultation methods.

In 2003, a public opinion survey found that only 39 per cent of people thought the council was good at asking residents what they think.

The Audit Commission has also identified gaps in community consultation, saying that the council has engaged with the community, but the approach has not been systematic or sustained.

Other research found evidence that the authority's approach to consultation is perceived as being ineffective.

The council's communications overview and scrutiny committee says the council needs to get organised and set minimum standards for all consultations. The committee suggested setting up a research library where results of previous consultations are shared and freely available.

Staff who are consulting with the public should be trained and supported and web-based consultation methods should be looked into.

The committee also said that more should be done to feed back the results of the consultation to those involved.