What is participatory budgeting?
(PB) is a mechanism of local government, which brings local communities
closer to the decision-making process around the public budget.
It is a flexible process,
which has been implemented in varying forms across cities of all sizes,
within Brazil and beyond. It works to enhance participation in local
democracy whilst improving community cohesion and ensuring the delivery
of cost-effective local services.
Some of the proposed benefits
of PB can be summarised as:
· Enhancement of participation in local decision-making,
reducing the so-called 'democratic deficit';
· A better focus on issues of social exclusion and neighbourhood
renewal, bringing clear benefits to the poorest neighbourhoods;
· Cost-efficient improvements in service delivery.
Internationally PB has
achieved recognition by the UK's Department for International Development
(DFID), the World Bank, the UN, UNESCO and others, and is widely cited
as a model of good practise in local governance.
Some of its main features
A clearly defined geographical structure, complementing political
boundaries, which facilitates decision-making and service delivery.
· The development
of well supported, popular city-wide meetings and debates, to
involve local communities in discussion on thematic issues (transport,
education, waste disposal etc.), to decide strategic priorities,
develop actions plans and evaluate and monitor on-going activity,
in a manner which complements existing representative democratic
· A widely
understood Annual Cycle which provides a framework for participation,
planning and implementation, not only for the local authorities
but also to facilitate local involvement.
· A network
of support agencies involved in local capacity-building and
the communication and promotion of policy information and practice.
· A budget
matrix, which processes local priorities into a comprehensive
table to inform expenditure across the city and across established
The PB Unit was set
up to raise awareness of PB and what it can offer citizens and
service providers. In the UK participatory budgeting is still a novel
idea - of uniting local knowledge with public money and technical
So far participatory
grant making has been the most common experience of PB in the UK.
A number of local authorities, local strategic partnerships and regeneration
agencies are now using it to improve their engagement with residents.
People are more likely
to value public services if they are given a stake in them. Local
authorities everywhere face similar limitations on their tax-raising
powers to those in the UK. But where PB has been successfully established
for a number of years tax receipts have sometimes increased alongside
The transparency of
PB makes it attractive to all. The amount of the public budget
apportioned by PB varies from city to city. Typically PB works with
small amounts of the annual revenue budget of the city, though this
varies with the situation. Participants in PB commonly debate only
new investment, not already committed or statutory defined expenditure.