Thursday, 26 November 2015

Participatory Budgeting in East Devon: spending peanuts on 'sport and play'

In the context of today's autumn statement
Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 - GOV.UK
Autumn Statement 2015: What it means for you - BBC News

... perhaps we could look at how a budget can be put together on a local government level.

This blog looked at the notion of 'participatory budgeting' a couple of years ago:
Futures Forum: Participatory Budgeting in East Devon

Back in the 1970s, Karl Hess suggested how this could be done:
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood Power: The New Localism

Another figure mentioned in that piece was Murray Bookchin:
The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy: Murray Bookchin, Ursula K. Le Guin: Amazon.com: Books
Libertarian municipalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Center for a Stateless Society » Listen Libertarian Municipalist!

There has been a huge amount of interest since then, with several projects and studies underway:
PB Network - Participatory Budgeting: Making People Count
What is PB? | The Participatory Budgeting Project
How Participatory Budgeting works | The People's Budget

These ideas are catching on in Paris:
Parisians have their say on city’s first €20m ‘participatory budget’ | Cities | The Guardian

... in Milan:
Milan's participatory budgeting final stage - Britaly Post

... in New York:
Budgeting’s Secret Weapon | Manhattan, New York, NY | Local News

... in Spain:

In the case of Móstoles, the city where I live, a neighborhood union assembly (Unión Vecinal Asamblearia) emerged from 15M activity. This is a popular candidacy project whose management and direction is developed through open assemblies with neighbors’ participation. In this program there are proposals like 100% participatory local budgeting, reduction of politicians’ salaries, and biannual public review of local government accounts in citizen-organized neighborhood assemblies. 

Spain in Transition?: Answers from the grassroots facing a collapsing country

Meanwhile, back in the UK, we are being urged to 'take back power' in the spirit of localism:
Minister says councils should “take back power” from Whitehall | East Devon Watch

The problem is that much of the 'verification' of any spending decided by District Councillors is left to 'independent' professional auditors:
External auditors: worth their weight in …? | East Devon Watch

As for the wider public actually getting involved in how the spending happens, it is limited to 'consultations' around S106 cash from developers:

Participatory budgeting

Find out more about how we spend Section 106 money from new developments on sport and play, and what it could mean for you

Participatory budgeting - East Devon

Even the much-lauded experiments in Scotland are limited to 'sport and play':
Scots are taking charge of public funds through participatory budgeting - Third Force News

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