How to write a Budget Priorities Statement
Do you want to ask the State Government for extra funding, or for money for a new project? The time to do this is when the State Government is preparing its budget for the next financial year.
Most years the Department of Treasury & Finance runs a community consultation in which it calls for submissions for the next State Budget. The consultation period is usually publicly announced in October with submissions due in early December. This timing can change though so it’s good to keep an eye on the newspapers and/or the Treasury website.
Budget submissions shouldn't be complicated. They can be as short as a page, and don’t need to be written in formal language.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to write a budget submission.
Work out what you’re asking for
A budget submission is where you ask for money to be allocated for a purpose. It’s not the place to argue generally for something like a new policy framework (unless you are asking for money to be allocated for the staff and consultations to create one).
Here are some hints that will help you get your submission well focussed.
- Stay focused on your organisation’s area of operations and expertise.
- Plan ahead to the medium term—remember, the Budget also looks ahead to possible spending in the three years following the current Budget (this is called the “Forward Estimates”).
- Be realistic about funding proposals and be prepared to consider staged approaches or ‘pilots’ for initiatives to ‘prove’ a concept.
- In lean budget years (ie those which are not prior to a State election) it is useful to present ideas on how to prioritise spending, how to spend money more efficiently and effectively (providing evidence to support your argument), or how to save money.
- Offer creative ideas for partnerships between state and local governments and community service organisations, where possible and appropriate.
Gather the evidence that will support your case
It will help your case if you can provide specific evidence.
You might need to show that there is a need in your area which is not currently being met. In this case you will need to provide information about your community or your clients.
You may be asking for money to extend or continue programs or projects. You could gather evidence from research, evaluations or your own service data to demonstrate that the programs or projects you are asking for money for do result in good outcomes for clients.
Evidence and stories from your organisation’s experience can be particularly valuable, as they add a human face to the statistics.
Whatever you argue, provide supporting details and evidence where possible.
Link your request to current government priorities
These are detailed at http://www.tas.liberal.org.au/policy
Can you estimate what your request will cost?
Where it is possible and appropriate, provide costings for your recommendations. You might be surprised how accurate your estimates can be—after all, the sector knows the cost of running projects and programs. If you are a small organisation and are struggling to estimate this work think of which organisations you partner with who might be able to help.
Start advocating for your request
Have a meeting or meetings with decision-makers in the relevant department or minister’s office to ‘sell’ your recommendations. Have a meeting with the Minister if you can get one.
It helps to develop relationships with departmental and ministerial staff so even if you aren’t putting in a submission this year, start building that relationship for the future. Seek out opportunities to brief them about your service and your clients. If you can, take clients with you to these meetings so the people with influence get a chance to hear about people’s lived experience.
It’s a great result if you can get the department to include your recommendations in their own Budget submission.
Put the submission together
Here is a suggested structure for your submission:
A front page with contact details for your organisation and a representative to contact regarding the submission. Make sure it is clearly marked as ‘[year, eg 2020-21] State Budget submission’.
An introduction to your organisation. Give a brief outline of the role of your organisation. If it’s relevant, you can provide a short description of your organisation’s membership, size, and funding, including Tasmanian State Government funding.
A brief summary of your key points and recommendations. This only needs to be a few sentences to summarise the key issues you are concerned about and the actions that you suggest the government takes to address those issues.
A more detailed discussion of your concerns with specific recommendations. In this section explain in more detail your key issues and what you believe the government can do in response to them:
- Why they should spend money on that issue
- What specific services, programs or initiatives you think the government should fund to help address that issue, and
- How much it will cost.
The government also outlines what it is looking for on its budget consultation webpage.
What next: If you would like TasCOSS to take a look at your submission before you send it off, feel free to contact us. Just email Dr Charlie Burton, Manager Policy,
Send it in!
Forward your submission to the Department of Treasury and Finance.
Email address: email@example.com
Postal Address: GPO Box 147 Hobart TAS 7001