Participatory budgeting now operates in 34 areas of the country and the aim is for it to be used by every local authority by 2012. It enables local people to make decisions on spending priorities that affect their lives right across the board, from local environmental issues and community facilities through to road safety measures and local crime initiatives.
New ways of involving the public in the decision-making process are being piloted and the lessons learned are being shared. Participatory grant making has been one of the most popular ways to engage in the process. Norfolk had its first taste of people power recently, when 16 groups from all around the county came together to bid for a pot totaling 200,000 pounds. The money had been allocated from the 2.4 million pounds raised each year in council tax from second homes in the county.
The ‘Your Norfolk, Your Decision’ project saw a diverse range of community and third-sector organisations each make a three-minute ‘pitch’ to more than 100 voting participants from organisations such as the Norfolk Youth Games, Age Concern and Victim Support. The grant applicants had to make their pitch by focusing on participatory budgeting themes such as cohesive communities, employment, and health and safety. This involved hard work to tick several of the application criteria ‘boxes’, to increase their chances of getting funding.
The successful applicants included Grow Norfolk, which provides free gardening services to vulnerable people in the community, while providing work experience and life skills for those disadvantaged in the workplace. Norfolk Youth Games were also successful and their grant will allow disabled youngsters to try out different sports, perhaps leading to them taking part in the pinnacle of the Paralympics. The Youth in Action project was also successful and their grant will allow young people to learn, teach, listen and respect one another.
GIVING COMMUNITIES A VOICE is available from DCLG.