Parr Investment Grant Voting Day: Participatory Budgeting in St. Helens, UK
In 2008, Parr Neighbourhood Management in St.Helen's, UK, implemented a participatory budgeting process to allocate its investment grant, with the hopes of engaging local residents in democratic processes and improving their connection to elected officials.
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Problems and Purpose
In 2008, the re:new Parr Neighbourhood Management in Merseyside county decided to change the format in allocating its Parr Investment Grant (PIG) from a panel type meeting in which an appraisal group consisting of a cross section of the board would discuss applications and approve, reject or defer the applications, to a participatory budgeting sytem.
The aims for the initiative were to allow local residents the opportunity to decide how money is allocated, strengthen public confidence in the local decision making, and strengthen democratic engagement and dialogue. The event was also intended to take community engagement seriously, provide a forum for applicants to network, and provide applicants with a ‘shop front’ to showcase their projects or ideas. For these reasons, the Parr Neighbourhood Management aimed to trial and develop community chest style PB event in St Helens.
Background History and Context
The Parr Neighbourhood management area has approximately 13,000 residents in 8 Super Output Areas which score in the top 10% IMD scores.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The initiative was organized and funded by Parr Neighbourhood Management.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Community groups and voluntary organisations i.e. Tenants and Residents Associations and Girl Guides could apply to the PIG. Voters had to reside within the Parr Neighbourhood Management area and be aged 18 and over.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative uses participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations. 
Participatory budgeting allows local residents the opportunity to decide how money is allocated and enable them to link that choice to a tangible output. The belief was that by engaging with residents in a democratic process it will strengthen their connection with elected members, local councils and partner agencies.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Parr has held two Parr Investment Grant (PIG) Voting Days. The first voting day was held at Bold Miners Neighbourhood Centre, Fleet Lane on Saturday 6th June 2009. 159 people attended, with 104 qualifying to vote. The second was held at Lansbury Bridge School on Saturday 10th July 2010. 148 people attended, with 120 qualifying to vote. At both voting days £20,000 was available to groups, £2,000 and £1,500 could be applied for in the respective years.
All applications were assessed by an Appraisal Panel to ensure that applications met the criteria set by Parr Neighbourhood Management; however the final decisions were made by residents. The criteria for inclusion in the scheme were encouraging people to become involved in their local community; strengthening and supporting existing community partnerships; helping to tackle health inequalities; promoting equal opportunities for excluded groups; as well as breaking down barriers and assisting people to move towards employment, including voluntary work.
Project presentations on the voting days lasted 3 minutes in which outlined what they will do, what difference the project will make and how much it will cost. In addition applicants were asked to prepare display stands. A session was organised to assist groups with their presentation skills following feedback from then first event.
To ensure fairness voters had to score every project and stay for the day; incomplete voting returns were disqualified. Voters marked each presentation out of ten, with one rating the project as weak and ten rating the project as very strong. Votes were collated at the end of the day and the results announced. The project with the highest scores would be awarded monies until the full amount had been allocated.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Since the succesful pilot in 2009, a second event took place in 2010. A total of 52 projects have been involed over the course of two years, with 307 people have attended the events and £40,000 has been awarded over the two PB events.
Results from the survey of the 2010 Voting day indicate that 88% of resident voters felt that they have been listened too, with 93% feeling that they have been able to influence decisions locally. 98% of resident voters said that they would come again to a future Parr Investment Grant Voting Day. Both successful and unsuccessful applicants have reported that they found all stages of the process rewarding. Significant proportions said that the event was an ideal networking opportunity and “shop window” for applicant’s activities.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Original Source: Nicholas, D. "Parr Investment Grant Voting Day 2009 & 2010 (St. Helen's)." Retrieved from https://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/case-studies/parr-investment-grant-voting-day-2009-2010-st.-helens. Accessed on: 26/07/2013
This case study was originally submitted to the Participatory Budgeting Unit by the organisers of the project, using a template supplied by the PB Unit.
Lead Image: Parr, St. Helens https://goo.gl/7ZQgkH