What is participatory budgeting

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a process that enables local people to have a say in deciding how, and where, local money is spent to deliver services, address local needs and issues.




While different PB models exist, it usually involves members of the community deciding how to spend part of a public budget through a voting process.

What are the advantages of using PB? It can:

  • Provide opportunities for local people to have a say in what happens in their area.
  • Provide an effective link between local community and local democratic processes.
  • Provide an effective way to engage larger numbers of people in the work of Communities/Community Councils and increase interest in local issues.
  • Provide opportunities for communities to learn about local groups and organisations and increase interest in those groups.
  • Increase small scale funding to grass roots organisations and initiatives, including those that have not been previously funded.
  • Encourage active involvement in local decisions and advance participatory democracy.
  • Help redress inequalities through community empowerment and a deepening of participatory democracy.

Shetland Islands Council has been delivering PB projects with communities since 2010 as part of a wider approach to increasing participatory democracy.  When people are engaged in their communities, they are more likely to experience positive health and life outcomes.

PB originated in Brazil in the 1980s and has spread into Europe, the USA and beyond, with over 1,500 initiatives reported worldwide. Hundreds of PB projects have been run in the UK involving local councils, police authorities, health boards and community organisations.