YouTube, Budget Consultations, and how a great blogger made it better still

This post by Helen Reynolds originally appeared on the Digital Monmouthshire Blog.

It started back in 2010 – our Cabinet Member for Finance, Phil Murphy, was keen to get more people engaged with proposals we were making to change our budget for the following year.  We decided it might be worth filming him talking about the budget proposals and putting it up on YouTube.

Every year Phil goes to great lengths to get out to as many community halls and meetings as he can to present what’s being scrapped, changed, increased and introduced to give us the money we need to run a council.

We thought YouTube was a nice addition because:

  • People don’t have to leave the comfort of their homes/workplaces to see Phil present his plans
  • Viewers can pause, rewind, and watch in their own time
  • It would be summarised so it is easier to get the gist of than sitting through an hour of explanations
  • It’d direct people to a page on our website where they can get as much or as little extra information as they need
  • We didn’t need a on spend money on it because it was being produced by me (Hel) with equipment we already had

It costs nothing but time, so far we’ve had good feedback from residents and the videos had more YouTube views than there were attendees to all of Phil’s real-world presentations. It’s been fun but – and I can say this for the first two years because I produced them – not very slick.  Here’s our story.

The first film


Just before Christmas 2010 we had free access to a film studio that was used by pupils in Torfaen and Monmouthshire so that’s where we did it. Using the equipment was steep learning curve! Michael, a colleague from our schools team, knew his way around a bit and helped me film Phil do a shortened version of his public presentation. We chunked it up into three three minute-ish films and uploaded them in January 2011.

Here’s what our local paper said:

“The millions of users of YouTube had a surprise this week when instead of the usual diet of pop videos, clips of dancing dogs and wannabee stars they might have stumbled across three videos explaining the intricate delights of Monmouthshire’s finances.

In what is a UK first for a local authority, the go-getting council has posted three short videos about Monmouthshire’s budget proposals for the coming year.”

The most brilliant feedback we could’ve got though was from an expert in presentation, Peter Bowler, in Surrey.  He blogged about what we did and was not only very kind and supportive but gave fantastic feedback on areas to improve.

Here’s the blog post: YouTube Presentations Explore Monmouthshire Council’s Budget

Mr Bowler taught us that the next year we should:

  • Make Phil less sedantry
  • Include more explanation
  • Sort out the graphics which weren’t easy to read
  • Edit it better

I love how so much effort went  into the critique and Mr Bowler helped us again in 2012.

The films: Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3

The 2012 film

 We decided to capture Phil at one of his public presentations – he’d be standing, going into greater detail and I’d edit in the graphics so they were easier to see. I filmed it on my iPhone (propped on a chair and a box!) and I’d played around more with iMovie and thought I could have a better stab.

I was a bit pushed for time though and even after my edits It was a bit long. That I knew.

I posted a comment on the presentation blog, pointing him to the new video and he very kindly responded saying he’d written about the 2012 videos!  His blog post is both funny and – again – really useful.

Here’s the post: PowerPoint Presenter Coins New Approach to Monmouthshire Budget

I hadn’t noticed that Phil was jangling coins in his pocket – how ironic for a cabinet member for finance! Also, a resident on Twitter noted that the audio was a bit dodgy and a proper microphone would have done a better job.

Next year we should:

  • Have Phil not relying so much on his slides – more eye contact
  • Utilise Phil’s natural friendly style and passion for the subject
  • Sort out the sound

If Mr Bowler is reading this  – a massive thank you! I get a real thrill from reading your posts.


We’ve done an informal interview with Phil, he’s standing up and giving context and explanation off the top of his head – he’s an expert and he doesn’t need a script.  We’ve got Dan Davies from our Youth Service (now working a few days a week with the webteam) to film it – he’s amazing and much better at this stuff than I am: the sound, edit and mis-en-scene (I studied film history dontyaknow) are all improved no end.

It’s long but Dan put chapters on the film so people can skip straight to the bits that interest them. Nifty!

0:25 Budget Overview
3:26 Green Waste Collection
5:07 School Meals
6:43 Internal Savings
7:58 Consultative Work
9:07 Pest Control
9:30 Fuel Management
10:14 Car Parking Charges
11:21 Care Packages
12:24 Low Interest Loans
13:21 Grave Yard Management
14:00 Investments
15:03 Council Tax
15:57 The Key Message

To complement the video the basics are covered with a Pinterest board and those who want more detail can read Phil’s slides on Slideshare.

Hopefully we’re on an upward curve!  Thanks to everyone for your help, input and all the feedback


Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.