|Citizen participation in spending 1% of public budgets
- The UK Government spends approximately £730 billion
- It borrows £84 billion
- Delivery of public services requires transformation, with greater citizen participation in designing, producing and delivering services.
- Mistrust and a lack of confidence in our politicians, and disengagement from formal democratic processes such as voting are putting our democracy at risk
- It is common practice that businesses and organisations set aside approximately 1-3% of their budget for transformation and innovation
- We would like the UK government to consider spending 1% of their overall central and local budgets with citizens, by citizens, for citizens to produce transformed participation in public life
We propose an annual cycle of citizen led participatory activity which builds in ‘expert witnesses’ (citizens, professional bodies, policy experts, resident/service user experience), deliberation, and dialogue to help identify areas for future transformation and innovation in the policy and practice of democratic government.
We ask that a ‘test and learn’ approach is adopted by drawing on both volunteer central government departments and local level public sector organisations (police services, NHS bodies and/or Councils) to trial a participatory, citizen led budgetary process to help identify future transformations in democratic participation, transparency and public accountability. On completion of the ‘testing’ process, we request that the learning is captured and considered for future democratic improvement.
We would adopt the principles and values of participatory budgeting, but would like to move beyond the participatory grant making processes that are often used in the UK, toward participation in mainstream public budgetary processes. The citizen process of spending the 1% budget would mirror the annual organisational budget process so that comparisons can be made on where citizen participation and decision making is different and/or similar to those responsible for spending the 99% of the mainstream budgets.
Why? – set out clearly why you consider it to be important.
It is a well-structured, internationally tested model of citizen participation in budgetary processes: Paris is currently aspiring to involve citizens in spending up to 5% of the overall City Hall Investment budget.
Whilst 1% amounts to a sizeable amount of money in real terms by including citizens’ knowledge and understanding of local issues in the decision making process, it will lead to more efficient (and cheaper) service provision long term.
In the UK elected representatives are required at a central and local level to set the strategic direction of public budgets. However, research shows that there is an increasing level of alienation and distrust of politicians in the UK.
Participatory budgeting has been identified as an effective tool in a fast growing body of evidence that calls for a new relationship that connects the personal with the political. Essential to refreshing our democracy is the need for new relationships between neighbours, and new relationships between the state and the individual. (see Ritchie, S. (in press) “Community Engagement, Democracy and Public Policy: a Practitioner Perspective” in Wankhade, P. and Weir D. (Eds). The Police as an Emergency Service: Leadership and Management Perspectives, Springer: New York.)
The values and principles of participatory budgeting were developed with support from right and left of center governments: this is the obvious next step as those politicians demonstrate their commitment to greater citizen participation and budget literacy: the process will complement representative democracy, providing elected members with an informed, structured process of electorate engagement in budget making processes.
Who? – state who you think should be responsible for fulfilling the commitment.
Strand 1: Volunteer Central Government Departments: there are two possible scenarios here, which would need to be agreed in negotiation with OGP representatives:
a. take 1% from all voluntary central government departments and pool the budgets for citizens to allocate according to their preferred strategic direction
b. select one or two government departments to be the focus of the test and learn approach, so that citizens go through the same process as civil servants and elected members responsible for those departmental budgets
Strand 2: Volunteer Local Statutory Agencies (NHS bodies, Councils, Police etc)
Each organisation which is willing to be part of the process would decide its own local focus, with the only requirement being that the budget for citizens to influence is a mainstream budget.
How? – suggest how the commitment might be enacted.
We propose that the decision about which departments and organisations are involved should rest with the government of the day, but that they should seek to encourage those agencies at a central and local level to participate so that the learning is maximised for future consideration.
Once a decision about who will be involved has been made, we propose that a Citizen Select Committee/Summit is established to answer the following question:
What would it take to devolve 1% of a public budget to a citizen participation process?
They would hear from expert witnesses (relevant to the focus of the budget), which could include:
- Local Government Association
- Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
- NHS England Board of Governors
- Local and centrally elected politicians
- The Treasury/Cabinet Office
- Trade Unions/Frontline staff associations
- Service Users
- Non Service Users
- Expert Practitioners
- Association of Chief Police Officers
- Royal Society of Public Health
- Expert Polling Analysts
- Organisations supporting the development of coproduced services
- Think tanks
- University Researchers
After considering the findings from the above, the citizens will recommend the way forward for agreement with government representatives. This process will take six to twelve months.
The next stage will be the actual participatory budgeting process, which should start at the beginning of the annual cycle of budget setting that the relevant organisations usually adopt, and will run for a full budget cycle.
When embarking on the process of PB there should be a commitment to go beyond the 3-8% who might usually participate in forums, public meetings, committees etc, and attract those who rarely get heard in the public decision making process. The preferred recruitment process would need to be agreed with government but could include:
1. a targeted, random selection of citizens who reflect the wider population characteristics of the UK
2. an open invitation to any who wants to participate (with specific targeting of those who aren’t already actively involved in existing government structures of engagement
When? – propose a realistic timescale for implementing the commitment
|Citizen Select Committee
|Participatory Budgeting Cycle
|Reflection and Recommendations
|Develop Policy Statements for all*
*develop the policy statements for all statutory bodies with unringfenced funding to adopt a PB process with 1% of the unringfenced monies (if they haven’t already joined the movement for more open statutory public services)