While this small Ayrshire town is experienced at hosting the 'Open International Golf Tournament', which returns this summer, this PB process was something really new for residents. Much like the ‘Open’ itself there was a buzz and excitement about the Participatory Budgeting process. Helen from Loans (a small village near Troon) said, ‘It’s a new way to give away money, the day was well organised and the voting and counting process was seamless.’ South Ayrshire Council staff were also clearly excited about the process because they were on hand to support participants and gave up their precious Saturday to work behind the scenes ensuring that everything went to plan and that the process was engaging, democratic and most importantly enjoyable.
In scenes reminiscent to Tiger Woods ‘teeing off’ at the ‘Open’ the town hall fell silent as community groups mustered the courage, fought back nerves and one after the other got on stage to make their pitch to the voting public. The presenters included 15 year olds from Dundonald Youth Club, pensioners from Fullerton Avenue Sheltered Housing and Loans Community Centre. All were bidding for a share of £10,000 to support their groups, to introduce new activities or to buy items for things like community gardens, art classes and numerous small items which make a big difference in people’s lives.
The event had food, live singing and spontaneous dancing from an audience who were clearly uplifted by the presentations and general positive atmosphere.
Reflecting on the process two South Ayrshire Councillors Nan McFarlane (SNP) and Peter Convery (Con) agreed that PB is an excellent way to re-engage the public with what is happening in their area. The Councillors were impressed with the shortlisting process prior to the event, which involved local people from the Locality Planning Groups and the event itself which encouraged networking between groups and supported presenters to build the skills and confidence to speak on behalf of their project. They were also very clear that this is just the start of the PB journey in South Ayrshire, Cllr McFarlane said, ‘This has been great! I’d like to see the most excluded groups, those with nothing in their bank accounts, at next years event. This is just the first step to more equitable distribution of Council funding using PB.’
Of the 18 projects which pitched on the day, 15 received full funding (up to £750). And, in a gesture which summed up the positive spirit of the event, the remaining 3 projects were awarded £200 each which was greeted with spontaneous applause from the audience.