Customer story: The City of Edinburgh Council, UK

Budget Simulator
'screenshot of 'The City of Edinburgh Council, UK
'screenshot of 'The City of Edinburgh Council, UK

Tough spending decisions

The City of Edinburgh Council needed to save £67 million from their budget over three years, whilst still making sure they could provide important services. They wanted to ask the public for their ideas on where to invest and save money.

The Council had used online survey tools to consult on budgets in the past, trialling both quantitative and qualitative questionnaires. However, response rates had been fairly modest, and most responses came from an older demographic. Consequently, they wanted to try a new approach in 2014.

In particular, The City of Edinburgh Council were keen to get a more representative picture of citizens' views, with a higher response rate across a more diverse audience. And they wanted to run a different kind of consultation, asking people to suggest how the budget should look in 2017/18 – assuming three more years of financial pressure.

The City of Edinburgh Council opted for Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator lets citizens try their hand at the challenge of balancing a budget, adjusting real data on spending and consequences to reflect their preferences.

The City of Edinburgh Council used a 'spending target' version of Budget Simulator, in which participants must achieve a certain overall level of saving before they can submit their proposed budget. This resulted in higher-quality, considered responses: rather than submitting wish-lists of areas where they wanted more spending, respondents had to confront the reality that more spending in one area would mean less in another, and make informed choices accordingly.

500% increase in response rate

The Council also saw a drastic increase in response rate, as they had hoped. Using Budget Simulator alongside other, traditional methods like public meetings, emails, phone calls and paper forms, they garnered a 500%+ rise in the number of participants compared with the 2013 exercise. Moreover, the average age of respondents dropped by a decade, giving a much more representative sample.

Following the exercise, The City of Edinburgh Council published a comprehensive report on their budget consultation. The report outlines the Council's key decisions and savings – and also provides a thorough overview of the engagement process, one finding of which was that 'the level of response 2014 exceeded all previous years'.

Guide: how to involve citizens in budget consultation.

We want you to be part of this process. Everything you say will be considered as part of the budget process and this invaluable feedback will inform the final budget proposals we’ll be putting to the Council

Councillor Bill Cook, Vice Finance Convener, The City of Edinburgh Council

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