After you've run an informative and engaging budget consultation, the final icing on the cake is to report back to the people whom you've asked to contribute. Letting citizens know what you've done with their response really matters to them.
Be transparent: share how you considered their responses and what decisions were made based on their response. This closes the feedback loop and demonstrates that the time citizens spent answering your budget consultation made a difference, which is what democracy is all about. It helps to build trust between people and government.
But enough soapbox, more real life examples.
Liverpool City Council
In December 2016, Liverpool ran a budget consultation that asked residents if they would consider raising Council Tax by an additional 6% in order to save cuts to social care (an issue on which the Council was also considering running a local referendum). The outcome of the initial consultation was quite revealing, with 57% saying no to the tax increase and 43% saying yes. There is an insightful blog from Mayor Joe Anderson in the Liverpool Express and also an article on BBC News about how the outcome of the budget consultation steered whether or not the referendum would take place.
The Mayor's Budget Report uses a combination of graphs and tables to provide insight into the figures – helpful for making the financial budget language more accessible. To read the report you can visit the Liverpool City Council Budget page or scroll down to the bottom of this article.
Cyngor Sirs Powys County Council
Powys' budget consultation report focuses on how citizens' input shaped the final budget for 2016/17. This citizen-centric approach is easy to digest, providing a report (can be found at the bottom of this article), FAQs, a quick summary of "You Said and We Have" actions as well as a great video on YouTube. It's an excellent example of joining the dots between the running of the consultation and what the organisation did with the responses.
Cheshire West & Chester Borough Council (CWAC)
CWAC's budget consultation generated a great worked example of the difference transparency can make to citizens – in the form of a 'participants' eye view' review of the process from Mils' Life/Work Lab. What I love about this article is that it hits home on the challenges that a lot of councils feel but find so difficult to get across; the consultation helped to demonstrate just how hard it is for councils to manage their ever diminishing budgets.
"Whether we are professional politicians, ordinary voters, digitally inclined hyperlocal enthusiasts, service users and carers, citizens who find ourselves wildly unrepresented in mainstream media, poverty-stricken working-poor, or the wealthiest of the wealthy living in walking-distance from the homeless, it is in all our interests that society learns how to function, whatever the challenges that face us. [...] So here's a vote of thanks to a council I think is currently doing its best - in very difficult circumstances, and with extremely small room for manoeuvre."
The Cheshire West & Chester Borough Council created a couple of papers: a summary report and also a full report. Both are written in everyday language using a descriptive and accessible style. The personal message from the Leader, Councillor Samantha Dixon, on the summary report is a nice personal touch on a fairly stark subject matter.
Calderdale published their council approved Budget Report for 2016/17 - 2018/19. This report has a more formal style, with figures laid out in tables (report can also be found at the bottom of this article). The findings from this consultation focus on how Calderdale can deliver vital services while living within its means and creating clear spending and savings plans.
City of Melbourne
Melbourne had an inventive approach to developing their first 10 year plan . Melbourne created a panel made up of 43 randomly-selected residents, business owners and students to accurately reflect the diversity of the community. This group then ran a number of workshops, discussion groups and events in addition to the Budget Simulator. All this information contributed to the 10 year Financial Plan which was voted in by Melbourne City Council in July 2015 (see bottom of article for plan).