A BUDGET simulator that asked residents to make their own decisions on where £13 million of cuts should be made, has been praised.

At Powys County Council’s (PCC) learning and skills scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 30, an independent member of the committee brought the simulator, called the Big Squeeze, up for discussion.

The report shows that PCC ran the simulation as a public consultation through October until November 3, 2019.

In total 580 people took part in the exercise and school funding was found to be the priority, with the least number of people wanting to reduce it.

Sennybridge Primary School governor, Graham Robson, said: “On the budget simulator, do cabinet and officers think it was useful?

“And what influence did this consultation have on decisions?”

Portfolio Holder for Education, Cllr Phyl Davies, (Conservative – Blaen Hafren) said: “It’s interesting to see the public feeling out there.

“In the answers where is the money coming from and where should it go in, it’s been reflected in the way the budget has been set for 2020/21.”

Finance Portfolio Holder, Cllr Aled Davies (Conservative – Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant & Llansilin), added: “You see from that, that schools are clearly important to communities, as it is reflected in the simulator.

“We try every year to engage with our communities.

“Understanding what the community want or what their priorities are is an important part of pulling the budget together.

“It’s important that we try and improve our consultation process every year.”

Cllr Davies added that he had seen, that some other local authorities in Wales were only consulting with their residents now.

“I think that’s a bit late in the day really,” said Cllr Davies.

Mr Robson replied: “It was quite telling that out of all of the services to cut, schools was the lowest one by a long way.”

Committee chairman, Cllr Peter Roberts (Liberal Democrat – Llandrindod South), poured cold water on the budget simulator though.

He said: “The budget simulator was based on a set of assumptions that we now know are no longer accurate.”

This is due to the increased draft budget settlement, where the Welsh Government gave PCC an extra  £9.5 million  which is a 4.2 per cent increase in real terms.

The PCC draft budget total is just under £270 million and £11 million of cuts or “cost reduction” will be needed in 2020/21.

The budget simulator gave people £255million to spend and they had to make cuts of £13 million.