A digital blueprint for local democracy launches in Newcastle

Newcastle City Council has launched an online budget simulator that lets residents have a say in where cuts should be made to help plug a £30m gap in its budget.

Due to cuts in government grants, increased costs to deliver services and new responsibilities, it means the council has to make further cuts on top of £251m it has saved since 2010.

The online budget simulator is a new way of engaging with residents on the budget which it does every year. It’s hoped this new approach will reach new levels in communicating the scale of the financial challenge facing the council and encourage greater resident participation in setting a balanced budget.

In its first three days, more than 110 people completed the people’s budget – far higher levels of engagement than at this stage in the consultation than in previous years. The budget simulator has also received lots of positive feedback on social media.

Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said: “We’ve harnessed the power of technology to engage with our residents in a new and innovative way. This budget calculator puts residents in our seats to understand the scale of the challenge and how the decisions we take have consequences – often painful.

“I hope that once people can get a better understanding of the budget, and the decisions that we need to make, they can contribute their ideas, and this tool can then be a blueprint for how we consult and engage with our residents and businesses in the future.”

The budget simulator allows people to submit their own budgets once they’ve found £30m in savings by reducing the budget in each service area. Every cut is shown with consequences and a breaking news headline which tries to hit home the real life impact of cuts. The simulator also pools together everyone’s individual budgets to produce ‘The People’s Budget’ and give an overview of all those who took part.

The simulator can be found at www.letstalkbudget.org.uk.

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