Recommendations and lessons to be learned have been agreed following Dumfries and Galloway Council’s third participatory budgeting exercise.
Participatory budgeting (PB) is one of a number of initiatives mentioned under Community Empowerment legislation.
Changes have already been implemented following previous rounds of PB including the introduction of online voting to remove geography and transport as barriers to participation and selecting neutral voting venues in each of the region’s four areas.
The latest evaluation report stated that the majority of residents who participated online did so “relatively seamlessly”. Feedback was received to suggest that some people found the voting website complicated and difficult to navigate contributing to 748 of the 2830 registrations not resulting in votes being cast.
The provision of neutral venues was welcomed but, for those unable to vote online, transport still remained a challenge.
Communication from the council to groups was specifically mentioned as an area of improvement. Groups welcomed the frequency, clarity and conciseness of direct email updates.
The evaluation report also looked at the voting system and tackling a “level of pre-determination” by voters for preferred project proposals.
The report stated: “By requiring members of the public to go beyond personal preference and select five projects which they then subsequently scored, it ensured that voting was as equitable as possible and no one project dominated the outcome of the vote.
“In addition, it was also recognised that the general public consistently across all four voting events displayed a genuine interest in all the projects proposed, not simply their personal preference. Members of the voting public also acknowledged that thinking beyond personal preference was a welcome challenge when deciding on which projects to vote for.
“There may be an opportunity moving forward to update the scoring method to include non-weighted/ranked scoring. As PB becomes more accessible and more popular it becomes even more important to apply a voting system that does not allow one group to dominate unfairly due to reach and popularity.”
The PB events were designed, developed and delivered by a PB Steering Group – volunteers with lived experience of poverty drawn from the Tackling Poverty Reference Group and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Communities Committee.
The Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Report can be read here: Participatory-Budgeting-Evaluation-Report-3.pdf