Pupils at Bedminster Down School welcomed a surprise guest to class to try their hand at setting a £394m budget to spend on local services.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, led a class of students and staff in a discussion about the financial challenges the council faces and the high hopes he maintains for Bristol’s continued success.
Using the newly launched online budget simulator, the Mayor invited the group to allocate money to services across the council from adult social services to transport and education. Staff and students were challenged to balance the books by increasing or decreasing service budgets and make a £65m saving from the starting budget.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We face a number of challenges as we look to realise our high hopes and ambitions for the city. The budget gap of £108m over the next five years is one such challenge that we want all of Bristol’s residents to have a part in tackling. This simulator is one way in which we are trying to open up the conversation about how we spend money and what people’s priorities are for the future.
“We’ve worked hard to get to grips with the financial challenge and it is clear that the council needs to change as does what people expect of it. We are just one part of a wider city network in which we all have a role to play in empowering local people and building successful and resilient communities.
“I’d like to thank the students and staff at Bedminster Down School for this opportunity to have a full and frank discussion about where we are and where we want to be.”
The tool, which is compatible with smartphones and tablets, provides a breakdown of what each service area does and the current budget they have to spend. By moving a series of sliders to modify those budgets, users are presented with a short description of the impact their changes will have on services and the people who use them.
Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance and Performance, said: “The aim of this simulator is simple; set a budget for the council but make sure you’re making the £65m saving needed. The challenge is in how that budget is set and where money is spent.
“These are decisions we face ourselves as we attempt to tackle the consequences of austerity, a rising population and increased costs. Separately from this simulator we have consultations open for people to share their views on specific savings proposals and the approach we’re taking to tackling this budget gap. The simulator will give people a feel for what that decision making task is like and the consultations are the opportunity to have your say.
“Anyone can have a go and I’d encourage everyone to try it out and set their own budget for the council.”
Gary Schlick, Headteacher at Bedminster Down School: "We welcome any new tools that help students understand the challenges of managing finances, whether their own pocket money or the millions involved in running a city. It's clear that Bristol faces tough financial choices and this tool is a really useful way of helping us all understand the implications of the decisions that are taken. "
The Bristol Budget Simulator can be found by visiting www.bristol.budgetsimulator.com and will run until Sunday 17 December.
To take part in the council’s consultation on the Corporate Strategy 2018-2023 and Budget 2018/19 Consultation please visit www.bristol.gov.uk/corpstrategy