Wolverhampton residents are being given the chance to find out what it's like to make tough decisions about public spending with the pioneering use of an online budget modelling tool.

The tool was previously used to advise the UK and Dutch Governments on their national budgets.

The city council's finance chief Councillor Andrew Johnson hopes as many residents as possible will log on to take part in the challenge - and help to set the spending priorities for the council for the financial year 2014/2015.

The Budget Challenge 2014 software gives users a fixed number of points that they can allocate to different council services. It then asks them whether they want to make service improvements or savings and shows what impact their decisions have on the amount of council tax they have to pay. As well as the satisfaction of helping to shape the council's budget, participants will be entered into a £100 draw.

It is the first time the unique budget modelling tool known as SIMALTO, developed by Research For Today Ltd in London, has been used to set a whole council's budget. It has previously been used by over 100 local authorities in the UK, Australia and Holland to help set part of their total budgets.

Company spokeswoman Rosalind Girvan said the tool had been piloted with a small sample of Wolverhampton residents aged between 26 and 81 years prior to being launched on Friday 12 July, 2013 at Type=links;Linkid=2138;Title=Budget challenge;Target=_blank;.

She said: "Instead of using averages, this tool predicts the optimum strategy for any total amount of budget allocation, from the resident's perspective. We find that participating in this research opens the public's view on budget setting in local government. People frequently say, 'we didn't realise you offered such a wide range of services' and 'we didn't know how difficult it was to make the decisions.' "

  • released: Thursday 11 July, 2013