Social Council Decision Making - “Setting a Council Budget”

In an earlier post we shared our developing workscape for Rewiring Local Democracy.  Please have a look and keep your comments and suggestions coming.  

One part of that workscape involves running a series of Digital Democracy Discovery Days over the course of 2014.  As opportunists we couldn’t resist the chance to use the budget making process that we are all going through to test some of the parts of our framework.  This time we’ll be focussing on Social Council Decision Making. 

Whilst it’s a team effort, David Bundy (Corporate Policy Officer in Kirklees) is leading on the theme and has this to say by way of an introduction:

Increasing engagement and involvement of communities in local democracy is partly about taking “the conversations” to where they are happening more and more, e.g. online or in the digital stratosphere. There are fixed points in the year when public interest and the potential for more engagement in the democratic process should be higher, one of these being when council’s set their budgets.

It has never been a more challenging time for councils and their communities; arguably it has also never been so important to inform, engage and bring citizens on board to face the challenges ahead. A lot of this increased engagement needs to take place in more online socially interactive ways.

How can you help?

Councils and collaborators can outline their approach to the pre-budget process and the actual event itself; covering pre-decision activity as well as the decision episode itself. We need to create a ‘noise’ and an evidence base about how online approaches are helping make decision making processes open, transparent, inclusive and engaging now and in the future.

Completing this short questionnaire will help generate evidence about past, present and planned activity on engaging and involving people in the budget process. Alongside this you can blog and tweet for example, about what you are doing to raise awareness and help reach people through online activity.

We will be kicking things off on Tuesday 18 February and would ask that you get involved by completing the survey, telling us what you’re up to and generally joining in the discussion.  Watch out for the tweets from @LDBytes (please use the hash tag #LDBytes) and let us have your comments etc on the Knowledge Hub.  We will capture all your contributions and pull the findings together.

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5 Comments

Jason Kitcat 6 Years Ago
We have tried lots of different ways to engage people with the budget including events, webcasts, debates, hashtags, videos, simulators and surveys. This year's go is at http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/bhbudget Much of our learning has been that really improving awareness and understanding should be the first goal, rather than expecting lots of detailed feedback on budget proposals themselves. Just last week we had a consultation event with local business people. Their main points were: 'We didn't realise it cost so much to keep the city running', 'we thought with the economy improving austerity was over' and 'why didn't you say you had such big cuts coming to your budget'. To which my thoughts were - we did say! But of course most people are living their lives and getting on with things rather than listening to everything the council or councillors say. In social media-specific terms... I came up with the #bhbudget tag for our local debate in 2011 and it has persisted since then, which is really handy. Webcasts are fairly good at engaging people, as are blogs which I try to do in detail for the budget eg. this one We have been a bit underwhelmed to the low level of engagement with the many types of online simulator we've offered in recent years. Much of the informal feedback has been that it's too hard to balance the budget! The biggest thing we've done to enhance and facilitate debate was our political choice to publish a draft budget in November/December. That gives lots of time for there to be scrutiny and debate before the February crunch decision meetings. I'm sure our budgets are better because of this process, we learn more about issues and we get clearer feedback from the public.
carl whistlecraft 6 Years Ago
Thank you for taking the time to comment, greatly appreciated. In terms of your #bhbudget tag, is it widely used and how do you use it to inform and influence the wider process? Have you found, generally, that digital approaches are having a positive impact in terms of wider engagement?
Jason Kitcat 6 Years Ago
Hi Carl The #bhbudget tag is fairly well used at various points in the year. It hasn't brought thousands more into the debate but perhaps low hundreds at some points. I think it has influenced debate as those following it have seen a wider diversity of voices than if they just followed the budget debate in the print media. Yes digital approaches are having a positive impact in terms of engagement. regards, Jason
Kevin O'Keefe 6 Years Ago
This really is excellent work and with regard to financial planing in challenging times is probably going to spark a healthy debate. The #bhbudget tag is of course easily replicated in the same way as gritter-twitter has become syndicated by most councils. The point I think that is well worth making is one of uniformity across the piece, so that all councils are encouraged to adapt the #...budget tag, with a personalised prefix, to engage with the community. Several Social Media channels (eg Facebook) have a free-to-use poll facility and one way to engage may be asking how money should be spent - as a non-binding barometer of public opinion. Most people wil enjoy using a simplified poll to idicate a preference, rather than the rather more weighty exercise of balancing a whole budget. Any poll or other channel should obviously be 'branded' with the #...budget tag.
carl whistlecraft 6 Years Ago
Hi Kevin, thanks for the post. Sorry for not replying sooner. Do you have examples you could share where the tools have been used in teh way that you describe?