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Role of councillors in PB

It is important to note that participatory budgeting does not, in any way, diminish the role of councillors and representative democracy. It supports it. This page explains the role of councillors within the PB process.

Participatory budgeting does not change the mandated duties of councillors to agree budget spend.

Before a budget or part of a budget can be used for a participatory budgeting process, councillors will need to agree the use of the budget (or part) for this purpose. 

After the community has voted on what to spend the money on, councillors will need to ratify or overturn the decision, in line with their mandated duty.  So far, since participatory budgeting started in the UK decisions made by the community haven't been overturned by council afterwards.  However, it's important to note that, that legal responsiblity is still there.  Councillors need to ensure that the money is being spent according to guidelines for the proper allocation of public resources and in line with any requirements for that particular budget.  They also need to ensure that the money is being spent on legal activity and services. 

Generally, it would not be considered a good option to overturn a decision made by the community because it's quite dis-empowering for the community and can actually harm relations both with the public sector agencies involved and with those councillors representing them.  However, in the event where it is absolutely necessary that a decision be overturned then the rationale for overturning the decision should be explained to those involved in the PB process as quickly and as clearly as possible to help mitigate any 'fall out' from overturning the decision. 

Beyond agreeing the spend of budgets, as required by law, councillors should be involved all aspects of the PB process, in their role as community advocates and representatives.

If the idea of implementing a PB process is not originally the idea of a councillor, then councillors should be engaged and 'brought on board' with the process as early on as possible.  Existing PB projects have shown that those councillors most involved in a PB process are those that are most in favour and supportive of it.  Those that have little or no involvement in the process are least supportive of it, and in some cases, actively opposed to it.  However, projects have found that those councillors who were originally objecting to PB, often become supportive and in favour of it once they become involved. 

Councillor support and involvement is crucial because councillors represent their communities and will be able to provide experience to the planning process, and encourage their constituents to get involved in the process - thus ensuring maximum participation in PB.  They may also know about activities and groups in the community and either engage them to bid for money (in a grants pot process) or avoid duplication of work by mainstream public services.

If councillors are involved in the whole PB process than the possibility of overturned decisions reduces considerably because councillors can work with community development officers and the community to ensure that ideas, projects, priorities etc, suggested and voted on by the community are value for money, relevant, legal and feasible; thus ironing out those issues before they impact on decision-making. 

Benefits of participatory budgeting from a councillor perspective:

  • empowering local people to get involved and make decisions will encourage them to vote at elections
  • those councillors involved in PB tend to see dramatic increases in trust and legitimacy by their constituents
  • capacity building and empowerment in communities supports local people to get involved in their neighbourhoods
  • participatory budgeting supports representative democracy because participatory budgeting tends to engage more people through making decisions on spend.



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Copyright 2008, Church Action on Povery. Cite/attribute Resource. Ruth. (2008, August 04). Role of councillors in PB. Retrieved November 07, 2009, from Participatory Budgeting Unit Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License
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You can write to the
Participatory Budgeting Unit
through our Manchester Office.

Participatory Budgeting Unit
C/o Church Action on Poverty
Central Buildings
Oldham St
Manchester M1 1JT

Office Tel: 0161 236 9321
Fax: 0161 237 5359

The PB Unit is a project of Church Action on Poverty, a charity (charity no. 1079986) and company limited by guarantee (company no.3780243)



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