Cheshire East Council has enjoyed huge success with the recent launch of participatory budgeting – the authority’s answer to getting communities more involved with projects that positively impact on the borough’s health.
Participatory budgeting involves community groups pitching their ideas to their own local communities, before those communities then cast votes that decide which of these receive funding.
Cheshire East has allocated £400,000 from its public health budget for these projects and has thoroughly committed to this highly innovative approach which has since become an accepted model nationwide.
The grant contributions have so far been used to address matters such as obesity, poor physical fitness and mental wellbeing with the key aspect of each project’s delivery being that they must be sustainable.
In Cheshire East, participatory budgeting has been particularly successful due to its localised approach of connecting public health and communities.
Rather than simply have everyone pitch for the full £400,000 funding available, the council split the borough into eight sub-regions and allocated budgets to areas according to their requirements.
Councillor Paul Bates, Cheshire East Council’s cabinet member for communities and health, said: “It has been very encouraging to see how communities and public health colleagues can truly work together for the wider good of our borough.
“One of the most impressive benefits of engaging with our communities through participatory budgeting has been that residents have fed back to us that they now feel far more informed and connected to the places they live. We have all been able to strengthen our networks, connections and partnerships.”
The participatory budgeting project in Macclesfield, attended by David Rutley MP, was one of Cheshire East Council’s greatest successes.
Susan Ritchie, chair of the UK Participatory Budgeting network, said: “The event in Macclesfield was quite possibly the best participatory budgeting grant funding event that I have seen – and I have seen hundreds!
“It had high energy, ideas from a diverse group of residents, political connectivity, organisational commitment and a meaningful pot of money.”