In October 2016 Buckfastleigh Town Council held the first open deliberation in their Participatory Budgeting inspired process for engaging residents in the work of the Town Council. Often PB starts with a funding pot and a request for bids, which then go to a public vote. Yet too often these participatory grant making processes, which are really successful in getting new participation and celebrating community activism are low on deliberation.
Echoing the style of PB done in major cities such as New York, Buckfastleigh started with a conversation about what matters locally.
As reported on the Town Councils facebook page: "We talked about what money the town council currently has, what it is spent on, what projects might be possible in future years and where funding for those projects might come from.
Ideas included ensuring there are good quality things for our young people to do, setting up a CAB service, creating a town ranger, making better use of the town hall, doing more local fundraisers, supporting our volunteers, taking over the running of our car parks, setting up a community transport service and loads more.
We’re going to write up all the ideas and share them on the website. The Town Council will have a stall at this year’s Christmas Market where all the ideas will be displayed and you can have your say about the ones you support, or even add your own ideas. If you weren’t able to come last night and have an idea about where else we could run a similar event, please let us know and we’ll see what we can arrange. We really do want to know what you think."
UK PB Network will follow with interest the work in Buckfastleigh, as well as other Town Councils, such as Frome, who started PB this year following support from PB Partners. And way back in 2011 Rural Action Yorkshire produced a toolkit and DVD on implementing PB in town and parish council areas. It draws on the work of several councils in Yorkshire and Humber, and can be downloaded using the link above.