Online calculator launched to give residents a budget say

Local taxpayers are being given the opportunity to make multi-million pound decisions on how Surrey County Council spends its money – in the form of an online budget calculator.

The council has launched the YouChoose online programme to allow residents to have their say on the future shape of the services it provides and offer suggestions about where savings can be made.

It allows users to adjust the council’s £1.6 billion gross expenditure and shows the impact their spending decisions could have on local services, from road maintenance to looking after the vulnerable.

Residents can adjust spending up or down in 20 different areas and some of the possible consequences are shown in red for a cut in services and green for a boost in spending, while the books need to be balanced without a council tax rise.

As well as seeing the immediate outcome of their decisions, residents can send their funding options to the council. The responses will be summarised in a publicly available report that will be given to councillors before they make final budget decisions on 1 February next year.

The online calculator, found at http://youchoose.yougov.com/surrey, will be available until the middle of January. It has been set up as part of the Have Your Say campaign launched by Surrey’s public sector organisations to make it easier for residents to offer their views on different but better services.

Following the Coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review last month, the council predicted it will have to save between £240 million and £260m over the next four years. Before the announcement Surrey had already identified savings of £180m over four years.

Surrey leader Dr Andrew Povey said: “Tough decisions will have to be made by all of us in the public sector in the next few years. Much has already been done but it’s clear that the parlous state of the nation’s finances means many more changes will be needed.

“We want Surrey’s residents to have their say about what is important to them while seeing for themselves the difficult balancing act of making savings and protecting vital services. This is not just a way for residents to understand budget pressures, it is a key way of letting us know what is important to individuals and communities. We are listening.”

Visit www.surreyhaveyoursay.info for discussion forums, feedback forms and more information about the Have Your Say campaign. Residents can also talk to their local councillor or download an online toolkit to host their own discussion among their neighbours, friends or family.