Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP speaks about his ambitions for PB in Scotland.
Many of you will know that the Scottish Government has been actively supporting efforts to increase participatory budgeting (PB) over the past two years and promoting what it can do for communities across Scotland. Our Community Choices funding boost of £530,000 in January 2016 means that over the past six months over 4,000 people have attended around 50 PB events which have involved hundreds of community groups. Importantly, more than £1 million has now been distributed democratically by local people.
Participatory budgeting is growing across the world. In Paris, the city mayor has committed over €500 million by 2020. In Boston, young people are spending $1 million a year through Boston Youth Lead the Change. In New York this year alone, over 67,000 people voted for 300 capital projects on a budget of over $38 million. In Iceland, innovative online technology is enabling citizens to propose, debate and decide neighborhood investments.
I want us to be ambitious in what we do which is why we are committed to ensuring local authorities have a target of giving at least 1% of their budget to Community Choices. This amounts to tens of millions of pounds which will be in the hands of local people to decide how best to spend that money in their communities, on their priorities.
I was delighted to open £1.5 million of the Community Choices Fund for applications last month and I look forward to seeing a range of ideas and applications from public authorities and communities by 29 July 2016. I hope to see more initiatives from public authorities like Edinburgh City Council’s £200,000 housing revenue and roads capital project and the Western Isles Council’s £500,000 procurement of a bus service.
We also want to support communities and authorities in this process. I have recently agreed a national support programme for Community Choices in 2016/17. This will provide on-going consultancy support, more learning resources, digital engagement tools, an evaluation programme and maintain this website to provide information to you. It also includes supporting community organisations, establishing a network and investing in a capacity building programme for Scotland.
Community empowerment remains a priority for the Scottish Government. It goes alongside and is intertwined with public service reform and inclusive growth. We want to build on the rights that have been given to communities by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act and Community Choices will help us all do that.
Finally, a date for your diary. You can hear more at a two day Participatory Budgeting International Conference in Edinburgh on 20th and 21st October 2016. More information will be provided in the coming months.
These are exciting times and I look forward to being part of it.
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