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Participatory Budgeting


Participatory budgeting directly involves local people in making decisions on the spending priorities for a defined public budget, for example for activities such as local environmental issues, community facilities, road safety measures or local crime initiatives.

The White Paper, Communities in Control, Real People, Real Power, puts participatory budgeting firmly at the heart of the Government's drive to pass more power to local communities and help reinvigorate local democracy. 
In September 2008 the former Secretary of State Hazel Blears launched The Participatory Budgeting national strategy: Giving more people a say in local spending.

The strategy sets out how we will work towards the Government's ambition for participatory budgeting to be used in every local authority area by 2012, and gives local authorities, other local service providers and other groups an overview of how they can best consider it and carry it out.

Interest is growing considerably: participatory budgeting schemes have taken place in over 55 local area agreement areas (top tier local authority areas) - or 35 per cent of them.

The range and depth of activities is also expanding: participatory budgeting is being used in all local authority tiers of different political control, on mainstream services as well as grant pots, on devolved ward councillor budgets, within housing management, and on police and health budgets.


The main benefits identified in Participatory Budgeting projects are that it:

  • helps to develop the skills, experience and confidence of those involved
  • can bring different people together across race, age, class and background
  • engenders greater understanding of the complexities of public budgeting, including compromises and trade-offs
  • can achieve decisions better tailored to local needs because community views are built into the process
  • can help local councillors and council officials to work better with local residents helping them to become stronger community leaders

Participatory budgeting has been identified in the statutory guidance as one of the activities to help comply with the new Duty to inform, consult and involve (which came into force on 1 April 2009). It can also help meet the new Comprehensive Area Assessment, as included in the guidance on the Use of Resources.

Participatory Budgeting and policing 

The Home Office recently committed almost £500,000 to launching 24 Community Safety participatory budget pilots across England and Wales. This led to more than 28 separate events around the country, directly involving officers from 17 police forces and police authorities, working alongside local authority colleagues, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and others. 

In May 2009 the Prime Minister announced a new Community Fund, to give communities a say in how £4 million of funds recovered from the criminal activity is spent. This money, available for 2009-10, builds on the commitment in the Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice Green Paper (published April 2009) to give communities more of a say in how recovered assets are spent locally.

Further advice

The Department for Communities and Local Government funds the Participatory Budgeting Unit, a key delivery agency, to help promote and develop participatory budgeting and advise community development workers and local authority officials on the development of new projects. Visit (external link) to find out more about the Participatory Budgeting unit.

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