Stirling participatory budgeting plans backed by £1m of funding

Stirling Council has approved plans to take the next step in its journey to launch participatory budgeting across its communities.

At a meeting of the full council last week, members approved a report which set out the principles of Stirling’s proposed approach to the community-directed spending initiative, including a plan to provide £1 million of funding split across four area partnerships.

Councillors also agreed to the establishment of a Member-Officer Short-Life Working Group to oversee the Warm-Up phase of the plans until a final report on the approach is submitted to the council for approval in October 2018.

Participatory budgeting has been identified by the Scottish Government as a way to empower people to have a direct say in how, and where, local public funds can be used to address local needs.

The government has recommended all councils allocate at least 1% of their budgets via participatory budgeting by the financial year 2020/21 and at last week’s meeting, Stirling Council leader, Councillor Scott Farmer, backed the authority’s plans for the future full roll out.

“The best way to describe this is by saying that there are no directive spending priorities,” he explained.

“This isn’t ‘me telling communities how to spend their money’, or how we will spend money for them, this is communities telling the council what they want to spend the money on and that’s the whole point of participatory budgeting.

“It is a bold approach and we are talking about putting up to one percent of our annual budget directly into the hands of the community.

“It will be a learning process but we have to get started on this now, otherwise we could be in a position where there are still more questions and we are never ready to roll it out.”

The council ran a participatory budgeting pilot in April this year where groups from across the rural and urban settings of Stirling were able to pitch for their share of £130,000 of joint-funding from the council and Scottish Government to help them see their plans come to fruition.

Four Area Partnerships will now be created to act as custodians and decision makers for Participatory Budgeting across Rural North and South and Urban North and South Stirling, with boundaries following the catchment areas of the high schools in the relevant zone.

The Partnerships will be formed of equal members with each having one vote. These will be comprised of equalities groups, businesses and local employers, individual citizens and community participation bodies.

Councillor Margaret Brisley, convenor of the finance and economy committee, said: “Participatory budgeting will hand the power straight to the hands of the communities. They will decide the priorities and where the money is spent.

“It is key that the area partnerships set up reach out to their respective communities as much as possible to give everyone a clear opportunity to not only express a view, but vote on the priorities of their budget and how the money is spent.”

The Area Partnerships will each have a responsibility for:

  • Ensuring appropriate breadth of representation for the area;
  • Taking a strategic approach;
  • Determining and setting its outcomes and priorities for a five year period;
  • Setting out and delivering a participation plan for community organisations, citizens and others in the wider community;
  • Making decisions about the allocation of budget to these priorities for their area based on the views of the wider community and have oversight of the delivery of the decisions made.
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