Participatory budgeting and Lewisham local assemblies
Participatory budgeting is a process where local people meet up to discuss and decide as a community how local government money is spent instead of leaving it to bureaucrats and politicians. It has been successfully tried in towns and cities throughout the world including Porto Alegre where the World Bank has found that it helped improve water, health and education services. Closer to home, it has been tried in many parts of Britain.
One place it has been tried on a small scale for the last eight years is right here in Lewisham Every year, about £225,000 of council spending is decided collectively at local assemblies (£12,500 between 18 wards). Projects that have been funded include kit and equipment for a girls’ football team, a fashion show led by young people, care for local ponds and green spaces and many more. If you would like a say on how future funds are spent, now is the time to get involved.
Let’s take it further! Let’s start to campaign for more PB!
We think these kinds of community initiatives are great. However, we want it to go much further. We want more money to be decided through a participatory budgeting process. How about local health spending being decided by local people in combination with health professionals instead of bureaucrats? How about local school spending being decided between parents and teachers? How about the police be taken under control of local people by us having control of police budgets?
We also want more overall funding from the central government to go to the local assemblies. The money is there if the British government decides to stop giving hand-outs to corporations. A university of York study found £93 billion or £3,500 per year per UK household is spent on subsidies and tax breaks to corporations. Major beneficiaries of government handouts include banks and other financial institutions. Arms companies also benefit (see pages 20-21 of the study linked above). These forms of government spending are focused on helping increase corporate profits at the expense of the rest of us. Working together with other local communities, we can campaign for a re-direction of spending towards local assemblies so that our tax money is spent on people rather than corporations.
With increased funding, we could create a range of new, services for the public, including better schools, youth clubs, better services for the disabled and public transport, or whatever else we decide on. All of this would help improve the living standards of communities. This process would also be useful in addressing under and unemployment, as these projects will need a lot of new workers to carry them out. We could also ensure that any new jobs created are well paid and empowering, and also increase the wages of current council workers.
If you are interested in PB, there are three options:
- Go along and have your say at the next local assembly. While you’re at it spread the word to get more people involved!
- Ask Lewisham council to increase the amount spent thought the assemblies. If the council refuses, consider campaigning with others to get the decision changed.
- Join with others to campaign for the central government to redirect our tax money away from corporate gifts and towards local assemblies in Lewisham and throughout the country.
Note that you can only go to the Participatory Budgeting project in the ward in which you live or work. So the Lewisham Participatory Budgeting projects are only open to Lewisham residents or workers.
Upcoming Lewisham meeting dates/places: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgCalendarMonthView.aspx?GL=1&bcr=1&CT=13268