The East Ayrshire PB Journey 

The focus and interest in Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a great opportunity to build a more co-productive relationship between public bodies and communities, with communities taking the power to make decisions about their priorities. Good PB enables the ideas, skills and knowledge of communities to be respected and developed, encouraging equality of power and responsibility.

When done well, PB is a fantastic way of respecting and building on the skills, assets and talents in our communities while working on the basis of equality and transparency. Here, Margaret McBain from East Ayrshire Council provides an example of their work around PB so far, and how co-production helped to shape it.

The East Ayrshire PB journey started when we received funding from the Scottish Government to run pilot initiatives in 2 communities. As we already have Community Action Plans (CLP) in a number of our communities, the decision was to offer PB to 2 of those areas.

Community action plans provide an opportunity for local people to identify priorities for improvement for their community with involvement of the whole community, from youngest to oldest residents. Each community undertaking this process set up a steering group to take the priorities forward.

The offer of disbursing up to £10,000 through a PB process was made to the steering groups in 2 areas and from this, PB steering groups were set up to develop PB in their communities. With support from Vibrant Communities the steering groups took control of most of the decision making, including

  • Voting criteria – who could vote, lower age limit
  • Type of event – presentation or market place
  • Voting system – paper based, electronic
  • Entertainment
  • Upper limit for applications
  • Who could apply

The priorities for application were set as the CLP priorities, as these had been identified by the local people, and as we had match funding from the Health and Social care partnership, those outcomes were also included. The steering groups reviewed all of the applications to ensure that they met the criteria before inviting projects to attend the decision day event. The decisions days were held in June 2016, where, between the 2 events, 46 projects were presented, 33 were supported, 183 people attended with 141 taking part in the vote.

Based on the success of these pilot initiatives, we were successful in securing further funding for another 12 initiatives. These initiatives used the same process as the pilots, linking with Community Action Plan groups, setting up PB steering groups and localised decisions made by the steering groups. This led to a further 12 events being held with 145 projects receiving full or part funding, allocating £120,000 across East Ayrshire, with over 2000 individuals taking part in the decision making process. A wide range of projects received support, from a local foodbank to a community café, from setting up a breakfast club to a community cinema and much more.

We now have further funding for our 3rd round on PB, where we will be working with Health and Social Care partnership Locality Planning groups and young people to deliver 6 initiatives across the authority. Again, local people are central to producing a successful PB initiative, with local people leading on the decision making and organising the events. Where possible, all of our events are held in accessible buildings and in one of our areas where 3 communities make up the action plan area, transport was provided to ensure people form the furthest lying community could take part in the decision event. Every event was evaluated and some of the results are shown below.

  • 74% felt PB was a good way of getting people involved in deciding how money is spent in their area
  • 75% felt it was good for their area
  • 65% said they would do it again
  • 78% were happy to vote
  • 63% felt everything was done fairly
  • 71% said they thought the voting seemed easy
  • 65% felt it was a good way of getting people involved in their area.

Steering groups were also asked for comments and these showed that the communities saw greater benefits than just money coming in to their area.

  • Good feedback from community, didn’t realise there were so many different groups in the village
  • Groups know what they are doing and more likely apply again
  • Connections made between groups
  • More communication between groups/people
  • Process was exciting, then frightening, then exhilarating
  • Very few hoops to jump through as application form was easy to complete
  • We thought the day was very successful and we had a brilliant turnout from the community.
  • Increased communication between groups
  • Community engaged with the whole process
  • Great Success
  • Very socialising event, chance to talk to other groups/networking
  • Good teamwork , a lot of work
  • Great to see so many young people involved and taking it seriously.
  • Having to vote for more than their own group changed people’s thought process.