Citizens directing spending on local services- the story of participatory budgeting in Manchester
Decentralisation and giving communities more powers to tackle inequalities on their own terms could be one way to create a fairer Scotland. Through participatory budgeting (PB), people can direct money to the services and projects that matter to them.
This week Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi visited PB projects in Durham and Manchester to find out how they have involved thousands of people in the area. With 18 local authorities now signed up to the concept in Scotland it is an approach that will dramatically develop over the next year.
Here Susan Ritchie (Director of MutualGain in Manchester) explains her story.
The last 12 months have been a democratic whirlwind with Scottish devolution, local elections and perhaps the most exciting general election for years. The democratic process has been stretching out across streets and neighbourhoods for us at MutualGain too with greater participation across policing, councils and healthcare in the north east.
In Greater Manchester 15 Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) participated in our programme to deliver 12 PB events across the County, and in Seaham the neighbourhood policing team delivered a PB event in partnership with Durham council who has been developing their approach to PB for many years.
The learning process was captured through a series of interviews, learning logs, films and visual minutes some of which can been seen on our website. As they watched communities vote for the programmes they thought would benefit their area, they saw community engagement by people they wouldn’t normally see at more traditional, structured engagement events.
The outcomes were spectacular. The Seaham event, attended by over 450 people, contributed to a 31% reduction in victim based crime and an 11% reduction in anti social behavior. The Constabulary provided a £10,000 pot which increased to £27,000 as a result of contributions from the local authority and Councillors.
In Greater Manchester they had their funding matched by local authorities to the tune of £78k. Projects worth £461k were put forward with 152/257 projects being funded. This required the public to deliberate the value of each project in a way that officers on committees would have to do, but in this case it is the community that decides in a transparent way. Deliberation and transparency are two of the key principles of participatory budgeting.
In both force areas there has been an increase in community intelligence and knowledge of extended community social networks – key aspects of building social capital.
Feedback from the PB processes has been excellent, from the police and from the communities. There is real desire to continue the process further – we look forward to helping them to build in the time, trust and tenacity that will help create the paradigm shift needed to shape our public services in the future.