Ever growing number of Leithers are taking the chance to have a direct say in how council funding should be spent, according to a new report.
The Leith Decides “participatory budgeting” process allows people to have a vote on which voluntary projects should be awarded funding from a limited council funding pot. It is organised by local council staff, with the help of volunteers, largely drawn from the Leith community councils.
Because the community budgeting process has been going for three years, it’s now possible to see some trends.
First up, the graph above shows the growth in the number of people who have been doing the “deciding.” 2013 saw the introduction of postal voting for the first time and this helped to boost numbers of people participating to 899.
Fewer people attended the market place event in Out of the Blue itself though, possibly as it naturally has a lower footfall than Ocean Terminal – where the 2012 event was held. That 899 figure is still way more than the number of people who ever attend any other Leith Neighbourhood Partnership meeting – indeed apparently 79% of them said they’d never been to any other council organised meeting.
The amount of cash allocated to the project has also increased each year since the project started, as the graph below shows.
In 2013, 50% of all the funds given to community groups by the Neighbourhood Partnership were allocated through the Leith Decides process. However, it should be noted that during this period, the total amount of money given to voluntary groups by the Neighbourhood Partnership has also been cut.
Even though the total amount of cash available to voluntary groups increased, the chances of any individual project winning funding through Leith Decides has decreased each year.
This is because there has been a steady growth in the number of different groups making an application – and in 2013 the maximum grant size available was increased from £1000 to £1200.
Even in 2013, groups still had a better than 50% of winning funding at Leith Decides though. You can see a full list of who got what in this earlier post.
In addition we should add that as the numbers of people voting have increased, their reported satisfaction with this method of allocating funds has increased too.
This is a hard thing to pull off, but perhaps shows that people have more confidence in the system if they see more people taking part – as it helps to alleviate the perception that groups with large numbers of supporters can “capture the process.”
All in all, a positive initiative that seems to be evolving into a regular, and well supported, feature in the Leith civic calendar.
The only question is whether the success of this model will encourage council officials to continue to expand and invest in it. And – could they also consider applying it to other aspects of local neighbourhood partnership spending – not just voluntary sector funding? That’s when things would start to get really interesting.
You can find the whole evaluation report here.