Customer Story: The City of Edinburgh Council – Housing and Regulatory Services

screenshot of Edinburgh Housing Points Simulator screenshot of Edinburgh Housing Points Simulator

A hard-to-reach audience

The City of Edinburgh Council's Housing and Regulatory Services department wanted to consult its tenants. This had proven to be a hard-to-reach audience in recent years, so the council wanted to try a new approach.

For several years, the Housing and Regulatory Services Department had been keen to engage with residents to find out how they would like to see rent money spent on improving homes and services. However, attempts at consultation struggled, as engaging with the target demographic proved challenging. Previously, the department had invited tenants to meetings to give their feedback, promoted through word of mouth and other traditional communication channels. But trust from the residents was low and responses limited. Consequently, Edinburgh wanted to try an interactive online tool to see if an alternative approach could help them connect with residents.


The City of Edinburgh Council decided to try Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator gives people the opportunity to set their own priorities for public resources, balancing different service areas against an overall target.

The City of Edinburgh Council used a specially-tailored 'points simulator' to reflect the choices at hand. Rather than adjusting different spending areas against changes to council tax (as is usually the case with Budget Simulator), participants were asked to prioritise their preferences for different investment options – for example, would they like loans to be made available for owners to install insulation? The council also tried a new kind of question from previous exercises. Tenants were asked to prioritise investment in homes and services that could save them money. The choice, then, was which plans to implement and, by extension, which groups of tenants to benefit and by how much. The Simulator reflected these trade-offs, allowing tenants to see how many people would be affected by their proposed changes and expected annual savings.

This Budget Simulator provided an online channel for the department to ask people for their input, allowing them to explore a new and different response mechanism. This was a deliberately experimental approach for the council and the department were very happy with the process. Because it was based on an existing product, procurement was straightforward. The speed with which we were able to complete the customisation of the Simulator exceeded their expectations. The quick turnaround allowed the department to test with tenants ahead of the official live date, giving them valuable input from participants about the approach. The Simulator itself worked exactly as intended and the council were very happy with the way it allowed people to give their views.

The Housing and Regulatory Services department were pleased with the response rate generated by the Simulator – it was three times higher than other exercises in previous years. This was especially positive given that they had identified the biggest challenge as finding an appropriate way to engage tenants which would encourage them to give their feedback. Budget Simulator's data tools also proved valuable – with the demographics questions, online summary dashboard and downloadable results spreadsheet allowing the council to monitor participation, see how representative was the exercise and undertake more detailed analysis of the responses.


What impressed me most was how quickly the product was turned around. As a result, I was able to engage with my target audience ahead of the live date and to ensure it was user-friendly, to encourage the maximum response rate.

Lisa Mallon, Senior Project Manager, The City of Edinburgh Council

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