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History of Participatory Budgeting

PB was first developed in Brazil in the 1980s as part of a larger effort to establish democracy and citizen participation after decades of military dictorship, political patronage and corruption. Although the majority of these towns and cities are in Latin America a growing number of European municipalities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK have adopted different models of PB to suit their circumstances.


Brazil posterHistorically, three stages can be identified in the development and use of PB:





  • First, from 1989 to 1997, was when PB was “invented”. This first occurred in Porto Alegre and other cities such as Santo Andre (Brazil) and Montevideo (Uruguay).
  • Second, from 1997 to 2000 was the Brazilian “spread”, when more than 130 municipalities adopted the model, with regional variations.
  • Third, from 2000 to present is the stage of expansion and diversification to other Latin American countries and to European cities and towns. European cities have initiated PB processes in Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. A number of cities in Africa (for example in Cameroon) and Asia (for example in Sri Lanka) are starting their own PB processes.

PB has been carried out in cities and towns of all sizes and in semi-rural areas. The process has been applied to local authority areas and neighbourhoods and to target specific groups such as children and young people. It has been conducted using existing legal and constitutional frameworks. PB is adapted to suit the local political and social context.

Development of PB in the UK

Salford City Council was the first local authority in the UK to express an interest in using PB. In 2000 representatives from Porto Alegre met councillors and representatives from the community and voluntary sector and a feasibility study followed. In July 2003 Salford City Council set up a group to take the proposals forward. At this time other local authorities started to express interest in PB as it fitted with emerging policies on decentralisation and increased democratic processes.

The Local Government White Paper of 2006 and the Lyon’s Report of 2007 provided both an incentive and an opportunity for local authorities to adopt PB. The emerging policies included:

·         a duty to “inform, consult and involve” citizens,

·         accountability via information to citizens,

·         local public ownership of assets,

·         more citizen and user choices,

·         citizen involvement in debates on local priorities, services and budgets. and

·         public engagement to be a “bottom up” rather than a “top down” process.

The introduction of Local Strategic Partnerships (LSP), Community Strategies and Local Area Agreements (LAA) encouraged partnership working across and between statutory, community and private sectors and citizens. Following the initial PB in Salford, the Participatory Budgeting Unit (a project of Church Action on Poverty) was set up in 2006 to promote PB around the UK. In July 2007 Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary announced government funding for ten pilot PB project areas in England.   Hazel Blears then announced a further 12 pilots in December 2007, also saying that she wants 100 PB pilots by the end of 2008 and that all local authorities should be engaging their citizens in PB by 2012.


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Copyright 2008, Church Action on Povery. Cite/attribute Resource. admin. (2008, April 01). History of Participatory Budgeting. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from Participatory Budgeting Unit Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License
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Participatory Budgeting Unit
through our Manchester Office.

Participatory Budgeting Unit
C/o Church Action on Poverty
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Manchester M1 2HF

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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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