Calderdale Council is spending £25,000 to find ways to cut £20 million from its budget - and it wants you to find the savings.
The money has been used to pay for an animation about council funding, an online ‘budget simulator’ and advertising on Facebook and Twitter encouraging Calderdale residents to take part in what councillors hope will be the biggest consultation ever carried out by the council.
Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), leader of Calderdale Council, said: “We’re trying to use as many different ways as we can to engage as many different people as possible, so there will be a lot of talks and presentations across the borough from ward forums to business breakfasts.
“We’re trying to make the best use of modern technology, so there’s a number of online tools that we’re using as well.”
As part of the consultation process, residents will be able to access a ‘budget simulator’ - a bespoke piece of software which will show the impact of cuts in different areas.
Nigel Broadbent, the council’s head of finance, said: “There’s £220 million, excluding school, which is the amount the council currently spends and the amount of savings we need to make in two years time we estimate to be around £20 million.
“On the budget simulator you can adjust the spend on any particular service and you can see what the impact would be,” he said.
“You’ll be able to see both the financial consequences and the impact on service users.”
Sarah Hardcastle, communications officer at the council, added: “Hopefully it will appeal to younger people.
“It’s a bit like a game - it’s serious stuff, but it’s quite interactive.”
Councillors say that the software can be customised for use with future consultations.
Coun Simon Young (Lab, Luddendenfoot), cabinet member for communities, said that using public money to pay for advertising on Facebook and Twitter was justified to reach a broad spectrum of residents.
He said: “Over half of the Calderdale residents are on Facebook, so it’s a fantastic way to draw people into the consultation.
“So it will be a combination of modern means, as well as traditional tried and tested methods.”
Coun Tim Swift agreed that using social media in combination with tradition means is necessary.
He said: “The trouble is that when you just do consultations at meetings about council services, you only speak to the type of people who are interested in attending meetings about council services which is not necessarily a completely representative group.”
The consultation, entitled ‘Your Council, Your Voice’, was launched earlier this week and will be open until October 31.
You can get involved through the council’s website. Questionnaires will also be made available at council buildings, public meetings and at schools.