YouChoose

youchoose

In what looks like a pretty interesting collaboration between what was the LGA Group and YouGov, YouChoose is an online budget simulator that:

encourages members of the public to consider where council budget cuts should fall, where efficiencies might be made, and where income might be generated.

You can see  a working version up and running for the London Borough of Redbridge, and a PDF document describes the detail in more detail (the tool is free, but decent analysis of the data is going to cost you).

I’ve not really got a view on participatory budgeting, or whether YouChoose does it well or not. Anyone with a clue want to share their thoughts?

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Published by

Dave Briggs

I'm Head of Digital and Design at Adur and Worthing Councils.

3 thoughts on “YouChoose”

  1. This comment reflects personal views…
    Dave
    Can give some detailed feedback at the end of our current budget simulator exercise
    The stock answer is that we don’t have much choice but to use these tools in the current climate. We must be seen to be preparing for cuts and engaging ratepayers on how they’d like us to act.
    I’m not so sure.
    The cynic in me says that you don’t carry out a consultation without anticipating what answers you will get. In that way, you will probably be able to prepare your feedback in advance.
    You could argue that councils should have developed their community interactions to the extent that they have a good handle on the public’s priorities and can adjust spending accordingly and that there’s no need to use gimmicks.
    Tools like simulators force you down specific pathways and give pre-cooked answers to your inputs. That said, the simulator is simple to use and, as we’re already seeing, make it more likely that you will get participation.
    Pete

  2. I think there is some confusion out there as to the qualitative outcomes of these tools. As with everything, it’s not so much what it does but how it’s used. There is I feel a critical difference between a budget simulator, which I would argue is an educational/informational tool allowing users to understand the nature of cuts, and how robbing peter will most definitely impact upon paul (to use a slightly dodgy analogy), and true participatory budgeting, which as the PB Unit (participatorybudgeting.org.uk) will tell you can only be effectively done through decent deliberation, most likely face-to-face. I would think that Redbridge’s new offering, building upon it’s previous incarnation most likely falls into the education/informtion end of this spectrum, which in itself is not a bad thing, just needs to be made clear that this is the intended outcome.
    The history and effectiveness of online simulators is a mixed bag. Most processes seem to have engaged a decent amount of people to participate, but it’s results haven’t on the face of it led to any demonstrable change in policy or budgetary decision-making. It may have done, but that process has rarely been reported back to the user.
    I would most likely agree with previous poster about council’s intentions with these things, however, it might well be argued that any form of participation/interaction with these particularly vexing questions is better than nothing.

  3. My principle concern here is that the Redbridge simulation tool is being badged on the Local Government Improvement and Development (formerly IDeA) as participatory budgeting. It clearly is not, something even Redbridge themselves acknowledge. I can add little to the previous correspondent’s appraisal of budget simulators and, in any case, local authorities will decide for themselves whether this sort of online consultation adds value to their decision making. It is my business to ensure that the term “participatory budgeting”, together with it’s values and principles are understood and not misused. PB is about the genuine transfer of power to communities (by enabling local people to decide how public budgets are allocated) via a transaprent, accountable and deliberative process. It is about building community capacity and cohesion and changing the relationship between people, officers and elected politicians.

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