Category Archives: Budget Simulator

Southwark Council chose Budget Simulator as part of their spending challenge

Southwark Council is asking its residents to give their views on the future of its public services by launching Budget Simulator as part of Southwark spending challenge 2014/15.

Southwark spending challenge 2014/15

Due to reductions in government spending, the council will feel significant budget pressure and difficult decisions will have to be made as it faces a £23m budget gap.

Have your say

Restarting a community conversation which initially began three years ago, the council is holding a series of face to face events as well as using Budget Simulator. A flickr channel has also been made with useful graphics showing how the council spends it’s money.

How the council spends your money

For more information on using Budget Simulator as part of your budget setting process please contact Maurizio on 0845 638 1845 or email maurizio@delib.net.

Worcester City Council launch a very vibrant Budget Simulator

Worcester City Council have chosen Budget Simulator to give its 98,700 residents the opportunity to experience some of the tricky decisions it faces for the 2014/15 budget.

What would you do?

Due to cuts by the Government, the Council will see its level of funding reduced by 40% in four years, which equates to £1.8m.

The Simulator gives the residents the experience of reducing the Council’s budget and gives them the opportunity to explore the consequences of decisions that will have to be made across all Council services.

Worcester's Budget Simulator

As Council Tax is restricted by central government, the council have utilised the spending target customisation, so that the overall increase cannot surpass 2%.

The consultation will run until 4th September 2013.

For more information on using Budget Simulator as part of your budget setting process please contact Maurizio on 0845 638 1845 or email maurizio@delib.net.

Emerging Good Practices in Budget Consultation

The Open Budget Survey is a biennial report produced by The International Budget Partnership and is the only independent, comparative, and regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world.

Open Budget Survey 2012

The 2012 survey featured a new section on public engagement in the budget process and the results show some interesting practices. Below are the countries that are being particularly proactive and innovative with their citizen engagement practices.

South Korea
Following an economic crisis in 1997, the public demanded a greater voice in budget decision making. Huge steps were taken, ensuring South Korea was the top performer among the countries surveyed in 2012.

Among its list of measures, the Ministry of Finance officials take field trips to learn about realities on the ground from local government officials and beneficiaries of public programs. Widespread internet services and social media also allow citizens to voice their opinions on budget measures. In addition, the Citizen Audit Request System in South Korea allows citizens to apply for special investigations by the national audit office into government programs that are particularly important.

Trinidad and Tobago
The Ministry of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago holds “post-budget forums” where key focus groups are able to give their views on the budget, allowing all members of the public to call or send text messages to the Minister of Finance. This information is shared through social media platforms, as well as their website.

Botswana
A budget pitso (or consultation forum) has been introduced to enable the public to be part of the budget process. This “pitso” has its origins in the community participation “kgotla” system, which is one of the oldest forms of public participation in governance in the world.

Germany
The parliament’s budget committee holds public hearings in which testimony from economists, trade associations, trade unions, employer federations, and civil service employee associations, among others, is heard. The budget committee determines the focus of these talks.

South Africa
The South African Money Bill Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act requires parliament to hold public hearings on the fiscal framework and revenue proposals. Interested parties are invited to make oral presentations during the hearings.

Given this encouraging progress, the survey also shows that many other organisations around the world can do much more to involve the public in all stages of the budget process. These institutions can learn from the few but promising examples, like those above, of innovative practices designed to increase public engagement in budget decision making.

To find out more on improving your organisation’s budget consultation process, contact me on 0845 638 1845 or email maurizio@delib.net.

How Police Authorities use Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator has recently been used by a number of Police Authorities looking to consult on their budgets. Here’s how we’ve customised the Budget Simulator to fit with their specific needs:

Customised Sliders

The sliders have been customised so respondents can give their views on a number of different issues relating to policing. There is also the option of detailing how much or what proportion of the budget is spent on these issues to help respondents in their decision.

Explaining Issues

As policing issues can be quite complex, clicking the ‘i’ button next to each issue gives a detailed description to what the issue covers. This should help respondents make more informed decisions using the Budget Simulator, therefore increasing the quality of the responses.

Police Authorities which have used Budget Simulator for their budget consultations include Derbyshire and Greater Manchester. To learn more about the background of these consultations, have a read of blog posts about the Derbyshire Police Authority and Greater Manchester Police Authority Budget Simulators.

For tips and tricks on promoting online budget consultations, have a read of Delib’s Scribd document on 15 Ways To Maximise Participation With Your Budget Consultation or a recent blog post on Even More Ways To Maximise Participation With Your Budget Consultation.

For more information on using Budget Simulator as part of your budget setting process please contact Ben Fowkes on 0845 638 1848.

Gloucestershire choose Budget Simulator to engage residents on their spending

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 2010 saw a heavy focus on public sector budgets and how to cut spending whilst maintaining services.

As part of their wider “Meeting the challenge“campaign, Gloucestershire County Council chose Budget Simulator to provide the online element to their budget consultation.

You can see from the Gloucestershire case study that there were many factors which made Budget Simulator the right tool for the “Meeting the challenge” campaign:

  • The ability to design the Budget Simulator with the wider project’s brand
  • A simple design aimed at increasing ease of participation and maximising response rates
  • Creation of a spending target that residents had to achieve to ensure that every single response was relevant to Gloucestershire’s financial situation

Gloucestershire’s Budget Simulator received 982 responses from residents, with 409 respondents choosing to support their response with a written comment.

Public interest in local authorities’ budgets is higher than ever, Gloucestershire’s “Meeting the challenge” consultation representing this notion. Budget Simulator has helped over 40 UK authorities to involve the public with their spending decisions.

The case study can be read online, or downloaded as a PDF for free.

See Gloucestershire’s Budget Simulator

If you’d like a free demo of Budget Simulator, or just to discuss running budget consultations online, please call on 0845 638 1848 or email adam.cardew@delib.co.uk

http://www.budgetsimulator.com/

Does Budget Simulator help increase engagement within the budget consultation process?

“We never used to get that level of response from using paper surveys on budget consultation”

– Walsall Council

Prior to using Budget Simulator South Yorkshire Police Authority (SYPA) used to run focus groups which engaged 30-40 people. Following a successful consultation using Budget Simulator, SYPA have now more than tripled their response rate. As well as improving budget consultation, the simulator also helped SYPA to “consider other aspects of policing not just the budget”, effectively improving overall community engagement.

Similarly Walsall Council increased their response rate by switching from a primarily paper based survey to using the Budget Simulator for online engagement – “we never used to get that response from using paper surveys on budget consultation”.

With 409 individuals completing the survey, Walsall Council commented that members of the public and engagement team found the Budget Simulator “visual and very easy to use”. With the ability to add further comments into the simulator Wallsall found they received numerous “open and honest responses” and could then use the results to effectively translate user comments for decision makers.

Does Budget Simulator help increase engagement within the budget consultation process? With the use of such an effective online tool, coupled with supplementary materials, it is clear that the use of a Budget Simulator helps engage a much wider audience within the consultation process.

If you’d like a free demo of Budget Simulator, or just to discuss running budget consultations online, please call on 0845 638 1848 or email gillian.crea@delib.co.uk

Following a successful budget consultation GMPA renew their Budget Simulator

Greater Manchester Police Authority (GMPA) have recently completed a consultation using Budget Simulator to influence their new Policing budget in Greater Manchester for 2011/12.
Working closely with the Delib team to develop custom animation design, GMPA used Police themed animations to successfully demonstrate the consequences of proposed budget cuts.

“The support in the early stages in terms of designing and building the Budget Simulator was excellent”

David Byrne, GMPA.

Screenshot of GMPA Budget Allocation Screen

Greater Manchester Police Authority used responses to inform the decision making process of the Police Authority Members who were tasked with agreeing new Policing budget in Greater Manchester for 2011/12. Using a series of newsletters, members of the public and partners were also informed about the response rate and subsequent budget changes. The ability to add comments into the simulator ensured that responses could be used to inform future budgeting plans.

Recently choosing to renew their simulator for the 2012/13 budget consultation period, GMPA have chosen to use the same animations as last year in order to provide consistency within their consultation process. GMPA will also be using the introduction of the results dashboard in the latest Budget Simulator to further assist with data analysis.

When asked if they would recommend the Budget Simulator to others following this yearʼs consultation David Byrne commented “We would recommend the simulator tool to others and have already been contacted by other partner local authorities who are interested in using Budget Simulator”.

If you’d like a free demo of Budget Simulator, or just to discuss running budget consultations online, please call on 0845 638 1848 or email gillian.crea@delib.co.uk

Wallsal Council extend their Budget Simulator license to inform 2012/13 spending priorities

Walsall Council recently extended their Budget Simulator license to allow local residents to have their say on spending priorities for the 2012/13 financial year.

As part of the coalition government’s commitment to reduce public spending, Walsall Council, along with all councils throughout England, continue to face spending cuts which means that decisions need to be made when prioritising allocated spending.

Following a successful 2011/12 budget consultation, Walsall Council used the results of over 500 resident’s views to make an informed decision on spending cuts. Respondents chose to cut spending on planning and building control whilst increasing spending on community safety. Feedback from the consultation was then used to inform the draft spending proposal.

Walsall Council have chosen to consult on 17 areas of their budget proposal for the 2012/13 financial year. The results will then feed into a more detailed programme of consultation which will take place between September and October.

If you’d like a free demo of Budget Simulator, or just to discuss running budget consultations online, please call on 0845 638 1848 or email gillian.crea@delib.co.uk

Budget-setting: it’s more than just cuts. PLUS how can you involve the public?

Cuts have been the background to budget consultation in recent years. When cuts must be made, it’s obviously essential to engage the public in budget setting.

However it’s a worthwhile reminder that even with cuts, public sector organisations – especially local authorities, NHS, fire and police – oversee significant spending of taxpayer funds.

Public sector budgets are a large proportion of local GDP, and will remain so. They’re the means by which essential services are provided, and they can be significant drivers of employment and economic growth in an area.

Public involvement in local budget setting is both important and achievable.

I recently found three useful pieces on approaches to setting local budgets, which are shared below – followed by tips and tricks for getting the most from a budget-setting process.

Cook County (Illinois, USA)
First, a trip overseas. I found this really interesting budgeting process “Look at Cook” from Cook County (Illinois, USA)

“Every year our Cook County government budgets and spends more than $3 billion. The County’s budget impacts our lives every day. All of its funding comes from you—your sales and property taxes, your purchase fees on gas, and other goods. All of its spending exists to support you too.”

Look at Cook is a nice site showing the potential to link spending data and budget consultation. Particularly effective is the clarity of the message about the amounts spent and where they go. It would be great to see approaches like this from the UK (know any good examples?).
Look at cook

Community Budgets
Back in the UK, Community Budgets have received a lot of attention recently. Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have a primer on Community Bugets.

“A Community Budget gives local public service partners the freedom to work together to redesign services around the needs of citizens, improving outcomes and reducing duplication and waste.”

DCLG also have a dedicated Community Budgets site, with weekly updates on progress and development in Community Budgets.
Community budgets

Placed-based budgeting
Also interesting is this piece on place-based budgeting from Office for Public Management (OPM) – discussing localism in budget setting, and the need for strong, transparent governance.

“The basic idea of place-based budgeting is that local government has the responsibility for making decisions about how best to deploy taxpayer money and public resources….local government will need to demonstrate good governance so taxpayers know that public resources are being used properly.”

Read more about place-based budgeting on the OPM blog.

Tips & tricks for involving the public in your budget-setting process
An online process is arguably the most cost-effective mechanism to involve people in budgets. It’s convenient and easy for the public to participate in an online process, and it matches the expectation that services will be delivered online.

For the staff who run the budget consultation an online process also has several benefits, including convenience of working with the data, which is already in an electronic format. Key metrics are also available on demand during the budgeting process.

Walsall Council and South Yorkshire Police Authority both found an online process with Budget Simulator to be highly effective for engaging a wider audience with the budget process.

Online, offline, or both?
Walsall Council identified that an online process got a much higher response rate than a previous paper survey. However, it’s worth maintaining an offline process based around a paper consultation document (or printable PDF), as this provides an additional means of participating.

A paper consultation document can be made available on request to people (saving the cost of mailing it to all households). It can also be used at events and roadshows.

Budget Simulator can be provided in an offline format which matches the format of the online process, providing additional rigour and minimising the costs of data entry from the offline version.

Make sure online processes are widely accessible
There are accessibility standards that must be complied with when running a public sector process online. Failing to comply with these standards is unfair to those who need the support that the standards provide. Failing to use an accessible process exposes an organisation to legal risk as it violates equalities legislation. Failing to be widely accessible also reduces the cost-effectiveness of an online process as it limits the number of people who can participate quickly and easily.

Budget Simulator has been built in compliance with web accessibility standards (see our Accessibility Policy), and is designed to be usable by a wide range of people including those with older computers/software, those who don’t have broadband, and those who have an impairment or disability. It’s also usable on smartphones (including iPhone and Android).

Maximise participation
We’ve been helping councils and government departments run budget consultations since 2005. Based on this experience we’ve put together a participation guide with 15 tried and tested ideas for promoting your budget consultation and encouraging people to take part.
Ways to promote your budget consultation: Twitter; mailing list. Links to PDF of 15 ways to promote your consutlation

Budget Simulator Case Studies
Greater Manchester Police Authority (GMPA) have recently completed a consultation using Budget Simulator to influence their new Policing budget in Greater Manchester for 2011/12. Read the case study.

Walsall Council recently extended their Budget Simulator license to allow local residents to have their say on spending priorities for the 2012/13 financial year. Find out more.

If you’d like a free demo of Budget Simulator, or just to discuss running budget consultations online, please call Ben or Gill on 0845 638 1848 or email gillian.crea@delib.co.uk

Derbyshire Police Authority Budget Simulator goes live

Derbyshire Police Authority Budget Simulator is now live to the public 🙂

The Police Authority set the budget for Derbyshire Police Force, and are using the simulator to give local stakeholders the opportunity to make their own funding decisions. Through using their own customised Budget Simulator, Derbyshire Police Authority are hoping local stakeholders will help inform their budget setting decisions.

The police authority are consulting on 12 different areas and service headers range from Local Policing to Police Intelligence. In terms of promoting the simulator, Derbyshire Police Authority already have a link in place to the simulator from their homepage. Further plans to promote the simulator include highlighting the consultation period at up and coming public meetings.

For more information on Budget Simulator or to book a demonstration please call Ben or Gill on 0845 680 0575 or email ben.fowkes@delib.co.uk or gill.crea@delib.co.uk.