Customer story: Cheshire West and Chester Council, UK

Budget Simulator
'screenshot of 'Cheshire West and Chester Council, UK
'screenshot of 'Cheshire West and Chester Council, UK

Bringing the public into budget decisions

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) are faced with the huge challenge of a £57m budget reduction over four years, after already making significant savings. That represents around a fifth of the Council’s net spend.

Making savings on this scale has a real impact on the services and amenities that local residents use. The Council knew that before making difficult budget decisions, it would be vital to start an honest dialogue with residents on their views and priorities.

The council embarked on an extensive, multi-method consultation process over three months, called ‘Let’s Talk’. They ran business breakfasts, 10 focus groups across the area, sent out 600+ paper questionnaires, two online questionnaires and used the Delib Budget Simulator.

Budget Simulator provided instant feedback and analysis

Around 4,000 people viewed the Budget Simulator, with several hundred people completing the budget-balancing challenge in full. CWAC received around 2,000 responses across all of these methods, a higher response rate than in previous years.

This mixed methodology was well received by Councillors, Partner organisations and residents, providing a range of possibilities for people to provide their views. Of the methods used, CWAC found the online Budget Simulator to be beneficial for providing real-time analysis throughout the consultation. It was also possible for the Council to use targeted online advertising to promote the Budget Simulator to a broad range of residents.

Residents showed which services they wanted to protect

‘Let’s Talk’ gave the Council great insight into residents’ concerns and priorities, with the Budget Simulator also helping people to see the potential value in raising Council Tax. Headline findings included:

  • Strong support for the council’s proposed priorities and direction of travel;
  • Services for the most vulnerable people rated as particularly important and worthy of protection;
  • An increase in Council Tax generally supported in order to maintain and protect services;
  • Those who completed the Budget Simulator opted to raise Council Tax by an average of 2.4%.

All the findings are summarised in CWAC’s ‘Let’s Talk report’, which the council also made available to the public online.

Importantly, CWAC also used all the responses gathered through ‘Let’s Talk’ to inform their new Council Plan: Helping the Borough Thrive, taking into consideration the importance that residents and partners had placed on each of their ten priority areas for future development.

Guide: how to involve residents in budget consultation using Budget Simulator.

Budget Simulator was an important part of ‘Let’s Talk’. It visualised the challenges faced by local government in an effective and engaging way, but more importantly it provided an accurate picture of residents' priorities. The simulator, alongside the wider approach of Let’s Talk has ensured that the Council’s Budget and Four Year Plan have been designed around our residents' views.

Councillor Samantha Dixon, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

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