Deliberating Service Delivery - Institute releases a report on participatory budgeting

  • Deliberating Service Delivery is Finnish Institute’s new report on participatory budgeting processes in the UK written by Laura Sillanpää. With the report the Institute wishes to contribute to the increasingly important discussion on local democracy and public participation. Our primary goal is to be a catalyst for further, more concise discussion within the Finnish society.

    Local authorities have traditionally played an essential role in local democracy. However, societal and structural changes and degenerating dependency ratio are creating new and challenging circumstances for local government in Finland and the UK alike. Therefore, new ideas and innovations are needed in order to safeguard the production of local public services and to enhance democratic citizen participation.

    Participatory budgeting has been presented as one possible way to both increase the democratic involvement of people and enhance service delivery at the local level. This survey presents an evaluation on the experiences of selected participatory budgeting processes in the UK. The survey focuses especially on the required resources, possible challenges and both positive and negative outcomes.

    Six projects of participatory budgeting were studied and seven interviews conducted. The key findings are as follows:

    • Participatory budgeting produces many positive outcomes, including enhanced service delivery and information on communities, but the benefits are often intangible and difficult to measure.

    • Deeper and more perseverant evaluation is needed to ensure the sustainability and wider buy-in of participatory budgeting.

    • Information about processes is not always accessible and open data and information about general budgeting processes are often not utilised at local government level.

    • Public budget cuts have affected the extent and depth of participatory budgeting and those processes that have already proven efficient are favoured.

    • Implemented processes in the UK generally allocate grants from discretionary budgets; the context of Finnish local government, however, requires the addressing of statutory services.

    The report can be downloaded and read here.

  • Image: Anu Lipponen