Headlines: August 3rd, 2010

Participatory budgeting brings local communities closer to the decision making of a budget, but when the complexity of the Compact is added, it all becomes mind boggling and mystifying. This is a key finding from research by the Commission for the Compact and the Participatory Budgeting Unit.

The Compact outlines the relationship between government and the third sector. It is the agreement between government and the voluntary and community sector to improve their relationship for mutual advantage. It facilitates joint working to strengthen communities and improve people’s lives.

When those involved in participatory budgeting were shown the list of over 90 Compact commitments, most of the interviewees thought ‘that following them could be very complicated and unwieldy’. One interviewee said: “There is tons of paper attached to it and it is somewhat bureaucratic.” They were concerned it would involve reviewing a lot of paperwork and spending time on processes rather that focusing on outcomes.

Interviewees agreed that language and presentation was important, with one saying: “It [the Compact] could be couched a bit better. Its jargonese… I don’t think I’m particularly thick but a lot of that just went straight over my head.”

The research report suggested that presentation is the solution to the problem: “If the Compact commitments relevant to PB could be presented as a short checklist rather than the complicated analysis, they may be perceived as more helpful.”

The report notes that participatory budgeting is likely to become much more widespread.