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Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Monday September 13 2010 10:48 GMT

Spending public money

Citizenship KS2/KS3/ Government

Old playground



Politicians must decide which projects are funded and which are not.

This activity puts students in charge of the budget, can they make a balanced political decision?

Learning aims
  • Government provides services .
  • Public spending decisions are political with winners and losers.


Watch the report about a park improvements being put on hold. Do students know who normally decides if a park is built or not? Explain that it will probably be local councillors or central government (see teachers background).

Working in pairs students try to answer the following questions.

  • Where does the money come from to pay for new parks?
  • Who would be in favour of new parks?
  • Who would be against them?
  • Who will politicians listen to?
  • How will politicians decide if it gets built?

Run through the group's answers.

They often tend to be negative in tone, with children feeling ignored by politicians.

These questions challenge negativity:

• If young people's views are really ignored how come any parks get built at all?

• Whose job is it to let the local council know what young people want?

• Have any students ever made their feelings known to a local councillor or MP?

• How would they do it, what would they ask for, what's stopping them?

Main activity

The students working in small groups imagine they are the local council committee choosing which of these projects are to be funded.

They have £100,000 to spend and must help the whole community.

Councillors' imaginary shopping list

  • New park £20 thousand
  • New bus lanes £30 thousand
  • Adventure playground £10 thousand
  • Tennis courts £20 thousand
  • Library books £20 thousand
  • Rose garden £10 thousand
  • Two car parks near shops £30 thousand
  • Keep old folks club open £20 thousand
  • Nursery for working parents £20 thousand
  • After school sports club £10 thousand
  • CCTV cameras on rough estates £30 thousand

When the list is finalised students should write a statement justifying their choices, or if there is time make a presentation to the class.

Extension activity

'Storyboard' an item to be shown on local television news. The report will put the case for a project students feel deserves council funding in their area.

The report must convince older people who may not benefit directly.


However public money is spent there will always be winners and losers. A politician's job is to listen to opinion and try to spend money in a way that is best for a whole community.

Teachers' Background

  • In England and Wales there are over 21,000 people serving as councillors on a local authority.
  • Councillors have to be elected every four years. To stand for election you must be over 21. The area you represent is called your ward.
  • Local authorities raise their income in a number of different ways, for example in 1999/00 the council tax only raised 25% of total local authority revenue. The rest was made up of central government grants which, at around 48%, form the majority of local government revenue. 25% comes from business taxation.
  • Some local government responsibilities include: Education, housing, planning applications, strategic planning, transport planning, passenger transport, highways, fire, social services, libraries, leisure & recreation, waste collection, waste disposal, environmental health, revenue collection.

For all links and resources click at top right.

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