Tag Archives: budget setting

New Budget Simulator Lands in Liverpool

It’s Here! Budget Simulator v2.0 made its debut this month having been adopted by Liverpool City Council. The Liverpool team have been an absolute pleasure to work with (like all of our customers!) In particular it’s been a joy to have Mayor Joe Anderson personally champion the project from the very start; in fact it was his idea to run a mobile budget consultation…

Screen shot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator welcome page

Screenshot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator interactive page

Mayor Joe at the Heart of Participation

All over the UK , councils are facing financial cuts from the Government, some more than others. Liverpool City Council has been particularly hit hard, having the difficult task of finding £156 million of savings of over the next 3 years with £45 million of this in 2014/15.

photograph of Mayor Joe

Amongst other appearances, Mayor Joe has been seen on BBC North West news and the BBC Daily Politics Show speaking out on the importance of this consultation;

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

v2.0 Optimised for Mobile

According to a recent summary from the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, rising from 24% to 53%, so the importance of enabling participation through these platforms is more prevalent than ever before.

With this in mind, Mayor Joe specifically wanted to run a mobile budget consultation to ensure engagement with as many of Liverpool’s 470,000 residents as possible. Budget Simulator has recently been rebuilt from the ground up to work on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, so was the perfect solution.

Graphic of desktop computer, mobile phone and tablet computer

We are approaching the fourth week since the Liverpool Simulator went live and it has received over 4000 visits, of which 28% have been from a mobile phone or tablet and 72% from a desktop. 920 of these participants have submitted responses; a real win on the side of engagement.

Understand Through Engagement

The Liverpool team had a second key goal for this consultation: to inspire an understanding from residents of the challenges they were collectively facing as a community. Budget Simulator uses consequences and service descriptions to do just that. By presenting background information, the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations while gaining a real insight into the reality of the task.

Screen shot of Budget simulator, the word 'consequences' is circledThe understanding gained through this project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

Embracing the Principles of Consultation

The simulator sits within a wider scheme of events and promotion, all geared towards understanding what really matters to the people of Liverpool. The campaign is transparent and accessible, for example the Mayor’s Budget page is a simple and clear port of call for all important dates, how to take part in the consultation and easy access to supporting information and reports.

This is such an important facet to Liverpool’s approach; making it easy for people to participate and clear how their input will make a difference. The concept of government consultation sometimes comes under scrutiny where the public feel their contribution makes no difference to the outcome. The government consultation principles document highlights the importance of reforming this perception;

‘It [the consultation guidelines document] is not a ‘how to’ guide but aims to help policy makers make the right judgments about when, with whom and how to consult. The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than merely following bureaucratic process. ‘

Consultation principals: guidance, 2013

Mayor Joe represents an increasing number of visionary leaders making steps towards consultation practices which connect them to citizens in meaningful ways. Delib’s online tools facilitate these connections by enabling policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Digital tools at the centre of Mayor-led engagement projects

Liverpool Showing Us How It’s Done

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator has been such a successful project so far. The tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, Liverpool’s fantastic approach to promotion and transparency, along with their clear commitment to ensure insight gained from responses will inform the outcome.

It’s likely to be a combination of all these factors, but one thing is for sure, the Liverpool team have set the bar high for engagement and best practice, and we couldn’t be more proud of how they have showcased the capabilities of shiny new Budget Simulator.

» Find out more about Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator FAQs

Given the current focus on government spending, forthcoming cuts and public perception of the whole situation, Budget Simulator has received a lot of attention over the last few months. We recently hit the milestone of our 40th new client, and we’re closing in on 1 in 10 UK councils having used Budget Simulator to run their budget consultation at one time or another over the past 4 years.

A lot of authorities have similar questions about Budget Simulator, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to provide answers:

How can I justify paying for budget consultation when cuts are being made at the authority?

Although cuts need to be made across authorities in the UK, this doesn’t mean that residents should lose their ability to make their priorities known for budget setting. If anything, this makes it even more important for you to engage with the public on your budget in a clear, engaging and informative way. Budget Simulator provides the opportunity to engage with hundreds of residents of all ages in an involving and professional way.

See our case study of how Wycombe District Council used the Budget Simulator to consult on the cuts they faced last year.

We, like other authorities, are facing cuts. How can we ask people for their budget priorities whilst remaining clear about the spending limitations we face?

Our new cuts-focused Simulator requires residents to achieve a savings-target before allowing them to submit their budget. This is a very popular new feature as it ensures that 100% of the responses you receive are relevant to your situation and can feed into decision-making.

Here’s an example of Exeter’s Budget Simulator. They needed to consult on how they should achieve a -5% decrease in their overall spend.

Does it cost anything for me to obtain our results from the consultation?

No. You can download an xls or csv file of your results at any point during your consultation which contains all the info you require for each response.

We’ve recently introduced a results dashboard to the Budget Simulator that provides the authority with real-time key indicators for your consultation in the admin area. This acts as a great help to the person running the consultation as they can update members and colleagues as required with statistics such as: Average total spend, most frequent area to increase / decrease / maintain spend, number of comments collected and more.

If you’d like to view the results dashboard and any other of the tool’s features, please watch our Budget Simulator features video.

The new Budget Simulator results dashboard

The Simulator needs to match our corporate colours/design, can this be done?

Yes, with a small customisation charge based on your requirements, we’re happy to edit Simulator designs into your corporate colours. We’ve recently designed such examples for:

  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • Oldham Council
  • Wycombe District Council
  • Greater Manchester Police Authority
  • Barnet Council

Here’s an example of Gloucestershire’s branded Budget Simulator .

The great thing about Budget Simulator is that for every council who uses us, we’re able to learn more about our product and how its design and use can be improved to provide benefit to authorities and citizens. We’ve recently made updates to the Simulator making it more appropriate for running a detailed consultation, allowing for cuts-specific consultation, whilst at the same time providing authorities with more refined best-practice advice on how to run a successful budget consultation online.

I’m glad to say that the evidence suggests that authorities are taking the opportunity to include residents in the tough climate being faced; Budget Simulator has more clients than ever using our tool to engage thousands of UK residents on spending.

If you’ve not put together plans for budget consultation this year or if you’d just like to have a chat about how other authorities have used Budget Simulator in the last year, please get in touch – adam.cardew@delib.co.uk

Bristol City Council e-Participatory Budgeting Pilot Goes Live

itsmybristol launch pic3

Council Leader Barbara Janke at the launch of www.itsmybristol.org on Friday

Here’s a fun little project we’ve been doing for Bristol City Council over the last few months. Participatory Budgeting, especially doing it online, is a hot topic at the moment, with lots of conferences, discussion papers and ponderings going on.

True to the sort of form that’s seen them become the UK leader for online participation work though, Bristol have just gone and got on with it.

They’ve set aside £15,000 for the wards of Clifton, Clifton East and Cabot to be allocated for spending via an online discussion. For those that don’t know Bristol, Cabot is basically the city centre, and the two bits of Clifton are up on the hill by the Suspension Bridge and thereabouts.

To carry out the project, the council’s using our Dialogue App, which will enable people to suggest ideas for what the money should be spent on, and allow others to vote for the ideas they support. Whilst the final decision on spending can’t legally rest with ‘the internet’, the council has committed to stick by the decisions made by participants, so long as they are legal. Vox Populi, Vox Dei then.Top stuff.

One interesting thing about this pilot too, is that the authority is reasonably relaxed about who participates in it. Given that Cabot in particular, being the city centre, is a ward thats used by far more people than live in it, the council just wants to know where people are from when responding, rather than trying to enforce a rule that only residents of those wards can take part, which would in practice be pretty unenforceable anyway.

So, check out the site at www.itsmybristol.org, and read more about it here.