A participatory budgeting project in Renfrewshire has been held up as an exemplar model for Scottish local authorities following a presentation to the Scottish Government and COSLA.
Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, Tom Arthur MSP and COSLA’s Community Wellbeing spokesperson, Cllr Maureen Chalmers, met with council officers and community members today (12 July 2023) to hear more about the #YouDecide project that brought communities into Renfrewshire Council’s decision-making process.
The visit followed the announcement that Scottish councils have reached the milestone of spending 1% of their budgets through the participatory budgeting process, with more than 110,000 local people having taken part and directly decided on how £154million worth of council budgets have been spent since 2021.
Community Wealth and Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur described the project as exemplary and said: “It was a pleasure to meet people involved in #YouDecide and to learn how they have had a direct say in how money is spent to enhance their neighbourhoods. Participatory budgeting projects such as these prove that, given the opportunity, local people can develop solutions that respond to local needs effectively.”
A total of £1.2million was made available for the council’s #YouDecide campaign which encouraged local people to put forward their ideas for small infrastructure projects which would enhance their neighbourhoods and the decision-making power was given to the local communities to choose which projects were taken forward.
Communities were involved at every step in the #YouDecide process as council officers carried out roadshows in every town and village in Renfrewshire, contacted and visited local community groups, left postcards in key community locations, and used social and local media to widen access to the project to as many people as possible – and more than 2,800 ideas were submitted.
Following the ideas phase, local people were then invited to vote on a shortlist of projects within their own local area in Renfrewshire to ensure they could decide exactly what would be of maximum benefit and more than 4,800 votes were cast.
A total of 50 projects have been funded and some of those completed so far include a new riverside walkway in Erskine which is being used by walkers, cyclists and the area’s parkrun, and new paths and improved mobility access to local parks and play areas.
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA Community Wellbeing spokesperson, said: “Local government has an ambitious vision for Scotland’s future and that is based on the empowerment of people and communities.
“The work going on in Renfrewshire Council with participatory budgeting is great example of the power of local decision making and I can’t praise it highly enough.”
Local communities have also been consulted on what type of outdoor gym and play park equipment they would like to see in the play parks they chose to receive investment in, with work on other projects such as dog exercise areas, new skateparks and improved lighting on key local routes set to begin later in the year.
Councillor Michelle Campbell, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Infrastructure, Land and Environment Policy Board, said: “I’m delighted to see that the campaign is being held up as an exemplar to other local authorities in Scotland as how we can best carry out participatory budgeting and ensure our communities are engaged with what the council does.
“The campaign has been a fantastic way to speak to our local communities, identify what they believe will make a real difference to where they live, and then start to deliver what they’ve asked for.
“Working closely and listening to the community is a key part of how our council operates and we want to ensure that local people are involved in our decision making as there is no substitute for local knowledge.”
For more information on the #YouDecide campaign, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/youdecide.