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"Your borough, your say" in Great Yarmouth

Participatory Budgeting in Different Community Settings - comparing urban and rural neighbourhoods.

Overview:

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has undertaken a number of pilot Participatory Budgeting (PB) exercises under the banner of “Your Borough, Your Say” during 2009 and 2010 using a combination of Community Cohesion funding and money allocated from Norfolk County Strategic Partnership’s own PB initiative “Your Norfolk, Your Decision”. 

The pilots have built on the learning from our neighbourhood management programme where form of PB have been trialled since 2006 and have sought to explore different ways in which local people can decide on how resources are being allocated in their respective communities.

 

Organisation:

Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Aims:

The aim of the pilots has been;

  • to show how different communities with different needs respond to and engage with the same process;
  • to encourage different communities to feel part of their area and work together;
  • to encourage local people to engage in local decisions;
  • to encourage residents to actively participate in their community;
  • improve resident satisfaction in their area. 

Where:

The pilot locations have been:

  • Southtown, Cobholm and Halfway House Neighbourhood Board
  • Magdalen, Shrublands and Elmhurst Court Neighbourhood Board
  • South and Central Yarmouth Neighbourhood Board (Comeunity)
  • Martham Parish Council
  • Belton Parish Council
  • Great Yarmouth Older People’s Network


Each area was selected based on levels of deprivation within our urban wards, linking with the roll-out of neighbourhood management. It was also important to explore the rural dynamic of running such a scheme and therefore two Parish Councils were selected both based on the levels of deprivation but both presented different contexts and experiences in which to operate the pilots. Martham which had recently received Quality Status and Belton which hoped to achieve that status next year.  With a significant proportion of the borough population over the age of 50 the Great Yarmouth Older People’s Network was selected as a community of interest, rather than a community of place to trial this approach. The network had undertaken considerable work to ensure it was equipped to deliver on the Sustainable Communities Strategy and this presented a good opportunity to test-bed this case.

How:

A toolkit was adapted using both local and regional models and provided as a resource to the host groups running each of the six schemes. Support was provided from the Borough Council in developing each scheme and additional community development support was offered to host groups from the local community and voluntary sector. There was early recognition that each community setting is different and one size does not fit all so the approach was particularly flexible to recognise these differences.  This has resulted in each exercise being run slightly differently and with a great variety in approaches but this has enabled a wider evaluation of methods and approaches. For example, a decision-making event for the Older People’s Network might be more difficult given there is not a natural meeting point for all older people in the borough and depending on such an event may exclude a number of people from taking part.

The Borough Council advertised the whole exercise under the banner of “Your Borough, Your Say” in several places, including the quarterly Borough News that is distributed to every household and at two events in the town’s Market Place.  Each individual host group has also promoted their scheme under the banner “Your…. Your decision”  in a  range of ways; in newsletters, leaflets and street/event engagements in their areas.  It is hoped that, in addition to the extremely wide coverage by newsletter over 2000 people have directly engaged at face to face consultation events and during the decision making events.
 

What:

Whilst schemes will not be completed until March 2010 it is clear that PB will achieve a number of outcomes.

For individuals
PB has given local residents an opportunity to see that they can change the area where they live and can influence decisions that affect them in a variety of ways.

For communities
PB gives an opportunity to interact with different people and communities and for them to come together.

For host orgnisations
PB provides an opportunity to reach more people and engage them more fully in the decisions that they take. It has encouraged organisations to think about how inclusive they are and how they engage their wider communities.

For service providers
PB has provided an opportunity to explore a number of creative ways in which local people can determine how resources are spent. The learning from these exercises will help partners to consider how better to devolve resources in the future.

Quotes

 “This scheme is really exciting as it gives residents the power to make local decisions and to interact with different people.  I’m also particularly pleased that rural areas are receiving their share of the funding.  This is a great opportunity for people to get involved and, if this pilot is successful, we hope to make more money available next year.”

Cllr Barry Stone, Deputy Leader, Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

 “Martham Parish Council was proud to achieve Quality Status during 2009 and even more delighted that this was recognised with the award of £10,000 from Great Yarmouth Borough Council as part of the Participatory Budgeting Scheme.  The scheme was easy to design and administer thanks to help provided by the Borough Council and we arranged a promotional display at the Village Christmas Fayre which has started to generate interest from local clubs and organisations in bidding for grants.  In a short period 34 application forms have been sent out and we are hopeful that when the grants ‘Decision Day’ is held on 27th February 2010 it will involve a large number of residents in both the bidding and voting process.”

Mike Huke, Chairman of Martham Parish Council

"It is community friendly budgeting, anything that really listens to the community has to be good"

Naomi Richards, Local resident, Joint PB Steering Group Lead

Learning points

  • Planning and organisation is key PB is a process and as such the process has to be planned from identifying community needs, to rationalising this to bidding criteria, to advertising the scheme to short-listing and engaging the wider community in decision-making. This requires considerable effort and time from the host organisation with no immediate sense of achievement and often limited recognition of the efforts of the host organisation.
  • Support and guidance to organisations running PB exercises is key. There are inevitable questions and unforeseen events which require advice and guidance. A toolkit alone is not sufficient and can make host groups feel unnecessarily burdened with paperwork.
  • Communication is really important not only between all of the partners but also in ensuring that each exercise tailors the way it communicates to best fit their community. Once you are clear on what you want to communicate, go big. Don’t underplay the opportunity for local people to influence decision-making.
  • Elected members should be fully engaged in the process and seen as champions for such approaches as community leader and advocates for their respective communities.
  • Some host organisations will be more receptive and pro-active than others and some methods will be more appropriate than others. Promoting such schemes as pilots in the first instances will enable areas to try and test PB to see what really works. No two communities are the same.

Contact:

Sarah Davis
T: 01493 845923
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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
3rd Floor
35 Dale St
Manchester M1 2HF
UK

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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