OPINION: Consultation is a silly season phenomenon

Why is it that towards the end of July the world seems to go, with infuriating predictability, a little mad? I realise that it's the beginning of the school holidays and Parliament is in summer recess, but that's no excuse.

What am I going on about? Well, consultations for one thing. Almost as inevitably as the trees shed their leaves in autumn, summer in the sector heralds the consultation document. Government departments, think tanks, and even voluntary organisations, contract "must-clear-my-desk-before-I-go-on-holiday" madness, and out come the consultations.

Theoretically it's a good idea because people should be able to give some serious reading time to new policy initiatives over the summer. But, in all honesty, these consultation documents are not exactly the kind of reading material you want to dip into as you lounge by the pool.

Their timing can also breed a sense of paranoia - it can only be a cunning plan to send consultation documents out when people are most likely to be away. You can truthfully claim to have consulted, but at a time guaranteed not to engender a high response rate. This, in turn, breeds mistrust, and issues that are the subject of this process run the risk of taking on a greater significance than they merit.

The other two things that indicate it's summer in the city are the decline in the level of job adverts and the ridiculous things that make the news.

Recruiters tell us that there is no point in advertising in August because everyone will be on holiday. But surely that doesn't mean we don't read the papers. In truth, although the Sunday Times and The Guardian job pages shrink, there are some very interesting opportunities around. Take a tip from me, it's a good time to apply because there's a lot less competition ...

And finally, the media is so desperate for stories, when not stalking holidaying politicians in Tuscany, it is susceptible even to publishing good news stories about our sector.

So, if you are canny, now is the time to begin a good news offensive, as it's more than likely to get column inches and wide exposure because everyone has more time to read the newspapers when they are on holiday - when they're not wading through consultation documents, of course. Geraldine Peacock, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

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