Customer story: Powys County Council, UK

Budget Simulator
'screenshot of 'Powys County Council, UK
'screenshot of 'Powys County Council, UK

Opening up budget consultation online

Powys County Council broadened the scope and reach of their public budget consultation by using Budget Simulator.

Facing severe cuts (needing to find savings of a huge £27m over three years), Powys County Council were aware of the critical importance of consulting the public on their budget.

The Council's budget operates on a rolling three year cycle so they were no strangers to budget consultation. In previous years, Powys had primarily used face-to-face workshops and paper surveys. They wanted to bring in a new approach for several reasons, including:

  • to reach those who might have internet access through their smartphone rather than broadband (a particular problem in parts of Wales)
  • to increase access for, and response rate from, different demographics – particularly amongst younger audiences, as their in-person events had mostly been attended by older people.
  • to create greater cost-effectiveness. (They had found previous face-to-face exercises expensive and inefficient, often getting sadly low turnout at workshops)

Widespread participation that informed decisions

Powys County Council chose to use Simulator to provide an engaging digital response mechanism for their 2016/17 budget consultation. To facilitate the widest possible participation, Powys made their Budget Simulator available in both English and Welsh, and supported it with a broad range of promotional activity, including:

  • prominent links and helpful FAQs on the Council website
  • use of social media channels, including a walkthrough video shared on Instagram
  • posters in public spaces and emails to schools
  • press releases
  • the Council CEO personally encouraging the audience at a leadership conference to complete the Simulator

It was important to Powys that they garnered, as far as possible, robust and representative results. They were happy that Budget Simulator reached a sufficient quantity and range of people that they could be confident in the data it provided. They also triangulated their Budget Simulator results with findings from other research to increase the depth of information available to their decision-making process.

And the results they collected genuinely informed substantive decisions that the Council made. For example, following the consultation process, they heeded a strong public preference to sustain the budget for short breaks for children with disabilities.

The Council provided feedback to citizens thoroughly and accessibly on the results of their budget consultation – including through a full public report and clearly-articulated headline findings and decisions on their website.

Guide: how to consult citizens on council budgets.

This is a different style exercise for residents to try. The information provided via Budget Simulator will prove valuable for both the cabinet and the council as it will show where residents think the savings should be made in order to achieve the £27m target.

Councillor Wynne Jones, Cabinet Member for Finance, Powys County Council

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