Participatory Budgeting

February 2011

Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary residents decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritise public spending projects.

Participatory budgeting is usually characterised by several basic design features: identification of spending priorities by community members, election of budget delegates to represent different communities, facilitation and technical assistance by public employees, local and higher level assemblies to deliberate and vote on spending priorities, and the implementation of local direct-impact community projects.

It has been suggested by many academics that participatory budgeting results in more equitable public spending, higher quality of life, increased satisfaction of basic needs, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalised or poorer residents), and democratic and citizenship learning.

Participatory Budgeting is seen as important in achieving the government’s ‘big society’ agenda. Participatory budgeting has become a key part of the Government’s drive to devolve more decisions on local services and facilities to local communities.

Participatory budgeting could lead to more equitable spending, an increase in satisfaction of basic needs, greater government transparency and accountability in addition to a vast increase in levels of public participation.

If the switch to participatory budgeting is successful in the United Kingdom all these positive aspects will be realised. However, in the United Kingdom this type of budgeting has only been tested on very small budgets in only a handful of areas and it remains to be seen if this can be implemented successfully on the large scale in Britain.

For full briefing paper please click here.

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