This afternoon, Leith decides. No, Edinburgh’s port hasn’t decide to go the Pimlico route but instead is giving residents a chance to decide how to allocate money to local projects. In total, there are 34 projects seeking a share of the money, £17,660 in total. The Leith Neighbourhood Partnership awards these community grants but last year decided to take a different approach to a few anonymous people making decisions in an room. Instead, the Neighbourhood Partnership gave the decision to the community who would benefit from the funding. The decision to give residents a chance to decide is an attempt to empower the community, with Leith the only one of Edinburgh’s Neighbourhood Partnerships to take such an approach.
This approach is commonly called participatory budgeting, which started in Brazil in the 1980s. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritise public spending projects, giving them powers to make decisions on how to spend money. Studies claim that participatory budgeting results in more even-handed public spending, a higher quality of life, an increased satisfaction of basic needs, plus greater transparency and accountability. The process also produces increased levels of public participation, especially by marginalized or poorer residents. When it comes down to, participatory budgeting is an all-round winner.
Everybody who lives and/or works in Leith, from age 8 (years primary 4) is eligible to take part in the decision making. Only those attending the marketplace at at Ocean Terminal between 1 and 3 can vote and will have the chance to score every project out of 5. While the Neighbourhood Partnership admits that this system is flawed, they say it is better than how the decisions were made before. One sign that the approach is working is the fact that of the groups involved this year, over half have not applied for a community grant before. The Partnership is seeking to continually improve the process, which has lead to this year’s marketplace, with voters given the chance to speak to the 27 groups who have put forward the projects. Each project has met certain criteria and were tested to ensure they meet the community grant requirements. The top floor of Ocean terminal will feature a stall for each bid and participants given the chance to discuss the project before making a decision.
So take some time out of tomorrow afternoon and take a trip down to the waterfront and vote for some of these wonderful projects. Personally, I’m favouring Leith Community Theatre, the Leith Festival Association and Leith Late but find something that suits your tastes from the list below. More details are on the £eith Decides web page.
- 6th Leith, 1st Newhaven Scout Troop
- ARTS Afternoon for Pulse of the Place
- Bethany Christian Trust – Men of Bethany
- Cassel-Kirk Neighbourhood Association
- Central Leith After School provision (CLASP)
- Citadel Youth Centre
- Dr. Bell’s Family Centre – Asian Women’s Group
- Edinburgh Garden Partners
- Edinburgh Leisure – Sports Leaders in the Community
- Fabb Scotland – Fabb Young Roots
- Fort Youth and Community Association – Garden
- Forth Youth and Community Association – Skills Sharing
- Friends of Leith Primary – Bicycle Shelter
- Friends of Leith Primary – Football Goals
- Greener Leith
- Leith Adult Learners Network (LALN)
- Leith Community Mediaworks
- Leith Community Theatre
- Leith Festival Association – Pageant
- Leith Festival Association – Posters Project
- Leith Late
- Lorne Primary School Parent Teacher Association
- Newhaven Coastal Rowing Club
- North Edinburgh Community Safety Panel
- Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust
- Out of the Blue for Leith Community Cinema
- Parent Council, Leith Walk Primary
- Pilmeny Development Project – Leith Timebank
- Pilmeny Youth Centre
- Stanwell Nursery Parents’ Council
- Strange Town Theatre Company
- The Junction
- The Ripple project (for multiple agencies)
- Victoria Primary School Parent Teacher Association
Edinburgh has 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships, each made up of a core membership of local Councillors and representatives from the Police, Health, local voluntary sector organisations and the local community. Each one has a local Councillor in the role of Convener. The Leith one covers two council multi-member wards – Leith and Leith Walk – with a population of 43,854 living in 23,639 separate households. Neighbourhood Partnerships deal with issues specific to their local area and influence the delivery of key council services including street cleaning, urban parks, libraries, local development, road maintenance, traffic and parking issues.