In 2006, the Community Council in the village of Coedpoeth, North Wales, decided to engage community members in hte process of allocating precept funds through a participatory budgeting process, making it the first community council in the UK to do so.
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Problems and Purpose
In 2006 the Community Council in Coedpoeth allocated precept funds through a participatory budgeting process. The initiative was promoted by community groups and local leaders and Together Creating Communities, a broad based community organisation, together with Help the Aged and the Community Council in Coedpoeth all provided support. This is the first instance of a UK community council using some of it's precepts to fund a participatory budgeting project.
The specific aims of the project were to:
- Engage residents in PB process with Community Council
- Encourage new Community Councillors to come forward
- To enable taxpayers to have a say in how money is spent
- Develop citizenship in local school children
- To trial the PB model in Wales
- To engage policy makers in Wales
- To develop a model of engagement in budgets for older people.
Background History and Context
Coedpoeth is a village in the county borough of Wrexham in north-east Wales. It has a population of 4,721 as measured by the 2001 census and is one of 34 communities (47 wards) in Wrexham County Borough. It's name translates into English as meaning burnt or wood, believe to derive from the production of charcoal for the smelting of iron and lead that was carried out in this area in Roman times.
But the 20th century saw a huge decline in traditional industries, and they and the railway which served them have all disappeared. Today Coedpoeth is largely a dormitory village supporting people who commute to work across a wide area including Manchester and Liverpool.
The village represents one political ward within Wrexham County Borough. The latest census figures suggest that, on the whole, people in the village are financially secure and there is little evidence of deprivation. But the figures for Lower Level Super Output Areas (smaller areas to identify pockets of difference) indicate significant variations across the village.
The pilot in Coedpoeth was designed by a small steering group made up of interested parties from the community and voluntary sector in North Wales, a representative from the PB Unit, plus the chair of the Coedpoeth Community Council, who was also the chair of the main local voluntary sector support network. The group already had good working relationships and had come together to explore how PB could be piloted in the Wrexham area.
By coincidence PB reached Coedpoeth by two routes. Having worked with TCC in a previous job, one member of the PB Unit saw an opportunity to introduce the idea into Wales alongside a like-minded organisation. An introductory workshop about PB was held at a participation conference in Wales, which gave the opportunity to bring together members of the north Wales voluntary sector who began to develop a vision for PB in the region. Seeking
to test out interest locally, it was soon discovered that by chance the Chair of Coedpoeth Community Committee had
recently attended a local government conference in which PB had been mentioned.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
£20,000 precept funds were made available. This money comes from council tax and is held by the Community Council. The entire process was overseen and organized by Coedpoeth Community Council, Help the Aged in Wales, Together Creating Communities, Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham, Wrexham County Borough Concil and the PB Unit.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
After the Community Council agreed to the precept funds being used in a PB process, a Village Spend Steering Group was formed from local voluntary organisations to plan the process. An initial meeting was held with what were described as the ‘movers and shakers’ in the village, such as chairs of community groups and other local leaders, with the aim of engaging them with the process so that they would communicate the idea and process to those they were in contact with.
A leaflet was then distributed to all residents in the village informing them about the process and inviting them to a public meeting.
Role of community
- Community leaders (youth workers, chairs of community groups, etc) were informed about the process and asked to bring people to the event.
- Community members invited to attend event, propose and select projects
- Local schoolchildren asked to propose projects
Role of councillors
- Chair of Community Council active on Steering Group
- To support and communicate to community members about process
Role of council officers
- Attend Steering Group
- Provide costings on project proposals
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 .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Priorities and project ideas were identified at the first public meeting. A parallel process took palce to identify project ideas in the local primary school. Projects were worked up and cost determined. Then, projects were prioritised and selected for funding at second public meeting. Finally, the projects were ready for implementation by County Council
During the first public meeting participants were asked to suggest project ideas under pre-prepared themes which were then prioritised using sticky dots until six favourites were produced. Project ideas were costed and presented at a second public meeting for approval.
The projects put forward were: a controlled pedestrian crossing; refurbishing the war memorial, improved seating in a public open space; tree planting; transport for lunch club and improved sports facilities.
A parallel prioritisation process was also held with primary schoolchildren who fed in their ideas for project proposals, although they did not attend the public meetings.
Project ideas were then costed and worked up and a second public meeting was held at which the projects were presented and participants asked to select their top 3. The result was a list of six prioritised projects.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
Although the Village spend pilot was a small initiative it established a strong case for further PB initiatives in Wales and in rural areas. PB addresses citizenship in terms of rights, roles and responsibilities and worked well as a vehicle within which to engage the school council.
Residents and school pupils engaged about what was good about their village and what needed improvement. The process affirmed the work and leadership of the Community Council. The process increased budget literacy. There was a sense of ownership of the resulting projects.
The issue of putting in a pedestrian crossing led to local people building a relationship with the local Co-op Supermarket and persuading them to put money into the crossing scheme.
 Retrieved from https://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/case-studies/the-village-spend-coedpoeth-north-wales/
 Participatory Budgeting in the UK an evaluation from a practitioner perspective http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/PB%20evaluation%20Jul%2007.pdf/view [DEAD LINK]
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.