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“Keeping Saffron In Your Hands”, Leicester

Saffron has received Neighbourhood Element funding since 2006/07 and has allocated its project funding through the Neighbourhood Management Board, consisting of local residents, ward councillors and organisational theme representatives. The Board members have had an interest in participatory budgeting (PB) processes since being briefed by the Neighbourhood Manager and having a specific session delivered about PB as part of a training programme. The Board decided to allocate £40,000 of its funding through a PB process.

Overview:

The main aims of carrying out the PB process were to involve a larger number of local residents in the allocation of neighbourhood funding, to showcase the community and its potential to wider partners and to give residents responsibility for prioritising important issues for public spending.

An event was held on a Friday evening at the largest local venue available, a local school.  The PB process was one part of an evening that included a photography exhibition, a dance performance by local young people and an awards ceremony for local volunteers.

89 local people voted to support projects presented to them by project applicants.

A wide range of projects was supported.  The awards ranged from £1,000 to £10,000 and projects covered a range of population groups and themes including those working specifically with young people, elderly people and people with mental health issues; welfare advice, education advice, family learning, a school sports programme, an allotment project and a healthy eating project.

Organisation:

Leicester City Council

Aims:

  • To involve a larger number of local residents of Saffron than just those who sit on the Neighbourhood Management Board, in the allocation of neighbourhood funding
  • To equip local residents with an understanding of budgetary processes and give them the responsibility of prioritising issues for public spending
  • To encourage wider resident engagement in other forms of local participation
  • To develop the sense of community in Saffron by running this event
  • To showcase the potential of the Saffron community to multi-agency partners

 

Where:

Leicester, in the East Midlands, is the tenth largest city in the country and consists of 22 electoral wards.  Leicester has several clusters of super output areas that fall into the lowest 5% nationally in the deprivation index, once such neighbourhood being Saffron.

The estate is home to over 5500 people, mainly in family accommodation.  It is a suburban city estate, located three miles south of the city centre.

How:

Consideration was given to the type of PB process to implement.  One option was to work with all the residents in a small area of the estate and ask them to decide how the money was to be spent.  A problem that was encountered was that the need in the area was for play equipment that, to be meaningful, would require a capital spend larger than the budget.  It was also apparent that no funding was available for ongoing maintenance and inspection costs.

The chosen option was to implement PB along the lines of participatory grant giving, as it was felt that this was more practical to manage with the amount of one-off funding available.

The Saffron Neighbourhood Management Board have set out their work priorities in the Saffron Neighbourhood Delivery Plan.  Organisations and community groups were invited to apply for funding that would address the priorities in the neighbourhood plan.  The Neighbourhood Board made an initial assessment of each application to ensure it met the criteria before agreeing its inclusion in the participatory budgeting process.

A community event was being planned by Saffron Community Enterprises Ltd. (SCEL) to present awards to local people who volunteer in the community.  This event, known as ‘The Saftas’ had been successful in the past but had not gone ahead for a number of years.  Saffron Neighbourhood Management supported SCEL to organise the event including arranging the nomination process for local volunteers, counting the nominations and inviting the nominees to the event.  It was agreed that the PB process would be integrated into the evening, which was held on 28th November 2008 in the largest community space available in the area, at a local school.

The PB element of the event was called ‘Keeping Saffron In Your Hands’.  There were 19 grant applicants whose bids totalled £78,062.  Each grant applicant made a two-minute presentation to the audience and eligible voters.  The voters were local residents who had been nominated to receive an award for their volunteering in the local community.  Each award winner was allowed an extra voting sheet for one of his or her guests to participate.  The 89 voters scored each bid from 1 to 5 depending on how much support they wanted to give the project.  Score sheets were returned and each score included in the total score, which was ranked from the application that received the most support to that receiving the least.

Who:

Saffron Neighbourhood Management, hosted by Leicester City Council, and Saffron Community Enterprises Ltd, a local volunteer-led social enterprise.

What:

11 of the 19 applicants received funding with the 11th receiving approximately a third of what they had applied for, having confirmed that they could deliver a modified project with the amount they were offered.


A wide range of projects was supported.  The awards ranged from £1,000 to £10,000 and projects covered a range of population groups and themes including those working specifically with young people, elderly people and people with mental health issues; welfare advice, education advice, family learning, a school sports programme, an allotment project and a healthy eating project.


The Saffron Neighbourhood Board received a lot of positive feedback from a range of partners, both on the event itself in terms of bringing the community together, and on the PB process which was felt to have been a great success.  Local people provided feedback on the event with the majority saying they enjoyed the PB process and would like to participate in similar events in the future.


The profile of Saffron was raised with citywide partners and there was positive local media coverage before and after the event.  The Leicester Mercury has followed up on a number of the successful applicants to showcase the positive outcomes of the projects that were funded.


Lessons learned:

  • By running the event in the way we did we limited the constituency of local residents that could vote for projects.  In future we could broaden this by advertising to all households and providing a limited number of tickets on a first come first served basis.
  • We came across some scepticism about the whole process but this was mainly due to a lack of understanding, a lack of trust of the impartiality of ‘ordinary’ people and a resistance to change.  A future event may now be accepted as the first process has proved itself.  The decisions made showed that local people are very able to make judgements based upon need rather than local favourites.
  • There were practical issues at the event itself that could be done differently in the future.  These included presenters not being used to using microphones which could be overcome by using lapel mikes.  We had hoped to use an electronic keypad voting system but were let down at short notice and so used a paper system that took a long time to count up and the whole event could have overrun.
  • There was some controversy when two grant applicants placed their project leaflets on the tables, which was construed as unfair canvassing.  In future this should be addressed by either having no extra information or by inviting all applicants to provide a display or extra information.
  • You can never have too much food!

Contact:

Nicola Bassindale
T: 0116 245 3002
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