Summary of Key Findings
- Since 2014 increased levels of financial investment from the Scottish Government combined with political support for PB have seen significant levels of activity by the majority of Scotland's local authorities and a wider range of community based and third sector organisations.
- Engagement and commitment to PB by communities, politicians and council officers is mixed. Evidence suggests that the varying range of approaches in use by local authorities so far is resulting in a number of differences including in levels of participation, the construction of PB (thematically or geographically), the boundaries for applicants (communities, charities, schools and other local public resources), and the processes for community engagement (events, voting, presentations).
- It is evident that the introduction of PB signifies a commitment and investment of time and resource from community applicants and participants as much as it does on the part of local authorities.
- There is limited evidence of consistent definitions of participatory or community budgeting in use across individual local authorities. A key observation is that local authorities tend to adopt, and adapt, definitions signifying a variance on standard definitions and the principles of PB.
- Participatory decision-making can be limited and challenging for both local authorities and communities. The transformation of power relations in resource allocation appears to be a cause of uncertainty. With the exception of two local authorities, communities are not engaged in specific budgetary allocations for mainstream services. The grants-based approach evident across local authorities engages communities in participatory decision-making for small community projects.
- Overall there seems to be a distinction between PB being operationalised as a transactional delivery method in community planning, and community engagement being regarded as a strategic goal and starting point for transforming relationships between communities, councils and public services and resources.
- The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 is clearly a driver and enabler for PB, but the requisite culture change towards more inclusive and shared decision making is not evident across all local authorities. Communities of place and the orientation from the Christie Commission inform some of the framing of participatory activity, but it is not evident as a lead driver.
- Similarly the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 and specifically the potential of the Public Sector Equality Duty to drive community engagement and empowerment have not been noticeable drivers of practice change or community engagement. There is limited reference to both in the strategic framing of PB. It also appears that some ethnic minority communities are not integrated into the process and continue to be less included in outreach and communications work around PB, although there is some evidence of efforts to reach groups not represented by active community groups.
- To date, findings suggest that there is innovative practice developing but strategic capacity and intent require to be more clearly articulated, resourced and reflected in the structures and operations of local authorities.
In this section, the summary findings in the following table are structured around a formulation by the GCU team using the 'strategic design choices for participatory budgeting' from Harkins and Escobar (2015). In their terminology, a policy instrument re-orients the relationship between public or government authorities and civil society (op.cit., 13). A policy device is when PB is applied as a tool for community engagement, without the more transformative potential of changing the power relationships.
|Design choice||Glasgow City Council ( GCC)||City of Edinburgh Council ( ECC)||Pan-Ayrshire (North, South, East Ayrshire Councils)||Fife Council||Western Isles Council ( WIC)||Aberdeenshire Council ( AC)|
|Policy Instrument or Policy Device||Instrument of governing. Using PB as a mechanism to involve communities in locally relevant decisions through the administration of small grants programme. Links to stated priorities in Single Outcome Agreements.||Community engagement, framed within strategic priorities. Is that policy instrument or policy choice?||Policy device for engaging local communities in decision making. Evidence of PB as a policy for engaging communities in tackling local inequalities and working with the local authorities.||Policy device for engaging local communities in decision making. More evidence of PB as a policy for engaging communities in tackling local inequalities and working with the local authorities.||Policy instrument. As a way of governing and taking a different approach expanding community involvement in decision-making in procurement processes.||Policy device for engaging communities in decision making on local inequalities and locally identified need, framed in strategic context of health, wellbeing and environmental improvement.|
|Neighbourhood or Multilevel||Neighbourhood - Area Partnership and Community Council.||Combined -neighbourhood and partnerships including different council departments, local third sector organisations, Police Scotland.||Neighbourhood and multilevel partnerships including third sector organisations and NHS.||Neighbourhood - localised across rural and urban areas - with partnership support including Coalfields Regeneration Trust.||Multilevel - different departments of local authority ( WIC), community councils, local contractors.||Multi-level - combination of local authority neighbourhood structures, partnership agencies though Integrated Joint Board on Health and Social Care, ( NHS and local authorities), community/third sector groups.|
|Thematic or Geographic||Geographic, through Area Partnerships, with singular interventions to include thematic interests of addiction recovery.||Combined - mix of neighbourhood and thematic focus including hate crime and young people.||Combined - localised geographic focus with singular thematic focus including mental health.||Geographic.||Thematic – transport.||Combined - geographic scope within defined thematic focus on environmental improvement, health and wellbeing priorities.|
|Community Grants or Mainstream Funding||Community Grants.||Combined - small grants, housing revenue grants, roads and environmental improvement funds.||Community Grants.||Community Grants.||Mainstream funding - transport budget.||Mainstream funding administered through small grants process.|
|Facilitator||Glasgow City Council (Community Empowerment Team) and localised decision making at Area Partnership level.||City of Edinburgh Council (Community engagement and neighbourhood partnerships) and other partner agencies.||3 Ayrshire Councils - (Community engagement team).||Fife Council Community Engagement team.||WIC.||Aberdeenshire Council and Integrated Joint Board (including NHS).|
|Proposer (who makes the application)||Communities.||Communities.||Communities.||Communities.||Combined - contract renewal, parameters set by WIC, community consulted on needs and preferences, dialogue with service provider/contractor.||Parameters set by institutional partners and communities propose projects.|
|Participants||Local community groups - new and pre-existing; public bodies including schools.||Local community groups - new and pre-existing; public bodies including schools.||Local community groups - new and pre-existing; public bodies, including schools.||Local community groups - new and pre-existing.||Local community - individuals, pre-existing groups and consultation channels.||Local community groups - new and pre-existing.|
|Type of participation||Combined - presentation of options/proposals at voting events, including some trials of digital voting in real time.||Combined - online consultation and presentation; public presentation, deliberation, and voting. Online voting and digital voting in real time.||Combined - range of presentation and voting formats at small-scale local level.||Combined - range of presentation and voting formats at small-scale local level.||Deliberative - community consultation followed by deliberative process of selection to contract provider.||Combined - range of presentation and voting formats at small-scale local level.|
|Final decision maker||Citizens.||Citizens.||Residents.||Citizens.||Combined - citizens and budget holders.||'Customers.'|
|PB fit with democratic system||Institutional - budget allocations are discretional at Area Partnership level.||Combined - delegated budgets and regular reporting processes; delegated budgets by partner organisations, e.g. Police Scotland.||Institutional - budget allocations are set by local authorities and usual grant governance processes apply.||Institutional - budget allocations are set by local authorities and usual grant governance processes apply.||Combined - final budget set by council, negotiated provision with local contractor.||Combined - institutional partners set budget value with institutional monitoring processes applied.|
Email: Jacqueline Rae