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Participatory budgeting in your community

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01. Background

Participatory budgeting (PB) directly involves local people in making decisions on the spending priorities for a defined public budget.

It engages residents and community groups representative of all parts of the community to discuss spending priorities, making spending proposals and vote on them, as well as giving local people a role in the scrutiny and monitoring of the process.

PB helps to improve relationships within communities and between communities and service providers. In addition, the process draws on local knowledge and opinions to ensure resources are spent on what matters to local people.

02. Suggested Activities

PB operates in different ways in different places:

  • allocating discretionary grants to local projects
  • the maintenance of public spaces
  • highways improvements, including road safety
  • street cleaning and refuse collection activity
  • youth work projects
  • public health activities

Improvement is often in terms of:

  • the self-esteem and confidence of those who participated in the process
  • people’s sense of their ability to influence local decision-making
  • people’s understanding of budget setting and the local democratic process
  • relations between councillors and their constituents
  • community capacity in an area – especially when linked to wider community development work or neighbourhood management initiatives
  • better reflecting local people’s views on how to allocate resources
  • an area’s ability to lever in additional resources.
  • improvements in relation to environmental and health outcomes

Delivering PB in your community

Download these useful sheets to help you deliver successful PB in your community:

SUMMARY OF CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS FOR DELIVERING PARTICIPATORY BUDGETIN1

SUMMARY OF BARRIERS TO DELIVERING PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING AND LESSONS ON HOW TO ADDRESS THEM.

Reasons for introducing PB include:

  • to facilitate meaningful participation by residents in local decision making with a view to improving local accountability, the quality of local services and the quality of life
  • to enhance community empowerment and engagement by encouraging residents to have more of a say in what happens in relation to budgets and the prioritisation of services
  • to increase community pride and sense of ownership
  • to increase community cohesion and bring different people together
  • to enhance the development of social capital
  • to enhance the relationship between residents and councillors
  • to increase awareness of how the council works and constructs its budgets
  • to get people to understand better how public money is spent
  • to develop effective support and project planning mechanisms
  • to establish clear processes and lines of accountability.

03. Additional Information

What are the principles of participatory budgeting?

The fundamental principles are participatory democracy, as a political model, and good governance. If indeed these principles are considered universal, each city or country converts them into practical means, reflecting their needs and the local context.

The PB Unit have developed values, principles and standards for PB which relate to PB as it’s implemented in the UK. The values are:

  • Transparency
  • Accessiblity
  • Deliberation
  • Empowerment
  • Local Ownership
  • Representative Democracy
  • Shared Responsibility

These values are not unique to participatory budgeting, but they are key to ensuring good quality, meaningful PB. All good practice PB incorporates these values to some degree. The PB Unit has produced some guidance on the values, including matrices to track progress and good practice case studies. Download the guidance at http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/PB%20document%20two%20colour_lowres%20website%20version.pdf or visit the resources sectionon their website for more information http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/resources/values-principles-standards.

04. Funding Opportunities

Your local authority’s communities team will be able to assist you in your activity, and your local development agency will be able to provide advice and guidance. Full contact details for local authorities and local develoopment agencies are included in the Directory.

05. Useful Contacts

Further guidance and information is available from the following:

Participatory Budgeting Unit is a national body which promotes PB and supports organisations wanting to use the method. Further information including tools and resources to help you look at participatory budgeting in your community, and contact details can be found on their website www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk.

The National Empowerment Partnership works to improve peoples’ ability to influence the decisions that affect their lives. Their website contains lots of useful information. Visit www.evcwm.org.uk/about/national-empowerment-partnership.

Communities and Local Government is a national government department leading on the communities and neighbourhood agenda. Visit www.communities.gov.uk.

06. About the Contributor

This factsheet has been kindly written and contributed by North Tyneside Council.

This factsheet is part of the Brighter Futures Together toolkit and provides a general overview of the different ways to get involved in your community. It is not a comprehensive guide or legal advice document. Please seek further advice and appropriate consent before commencing any projects.

The material in the factsheet is not copyrighted however we ask that you acknowledge the Brighter Futures Together toolkit when you use them. www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk