The Scottish government ran a pilot Participatory Budgeting (PB) scheme labelled “Equally Well”, in Govanhill, an area of Glasgow, known for social, economic and health inequalities.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the participatory budgeting scheme implemented in the Govanhill area of Glasgow, Scotland, was to tackle health inequalities. In order to do so, the "Equally Well" scheme was allotted £200,000 by the Scottish Government.
Background History and Context
In the UK, most cases of participatory budgeting have been small scale community grant allocations, called devolution deals. Although much less than the $64 million allocated to Porto Alegre, these cases have shown to encourage greater local involvement in political decisions. In Scotland specifically, PB has proven popular, with the Community Empowerment Unit in the Scottish Government finding more than 20 cases of PB.
This particular scheme began in 2008, but the Govanhill Community Action (GoCA) group was not officially given funding until 2010. [4, p.10-14] Govanhill has a diverse, transient community and is currently home to the highest concentration of Eastern European Roma migrants seen in Scotland. It also has the highest levels of anti-social behaviour in the South of Glasgow.  These inequalities and behaviour can be in part attributed to exploitation by the proliferation of rogue landlords, who have left some housing in terrible condition.
‘Equally Well’ aims to stop the deterioration of environmental conditions due to these issues. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the PB Programme, making it central to the Government agenda on community empowerment and illustrates the momentum PB processes are gaining in Scotland which, if successful, could spread to the rest of the UK.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Govanhill Community Action (GoCA) group was given £200,000 by the Scottish Government under the Equally Well scheme. The group was made up of representatives from local community groups in Govanhill and the primary group accountable for spending. They were supported by Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme bridged the perceived gap between public sector workers and GoCA members. The formation of GoCA, engagement with the community and participation took approximately 6 months.
The Govanhill Neighbourhood Management Group was also established under the South East Community Health & Care Partnership in 2008. The group identified local priorities and worked in tandem with GoCA. Actions were planned by sub groups focusing on community safety and security, children and young people, employment, debt and financial inclusion and housing.[9, p.2-3]
The Govanhill test site was evaluated and assisted by a number of organisations including; South Glasgow Community Health Partnership; Govanhill Housing Association, City Property, Glasgow City Council, Development and Regeneration Services, and Glasgow Centre for Population Health. [4, p.2]
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Consultation by Voluntary Health Scotland consisted of two phases. A public online enquiry and a roundtable event attended by representatives from local organisations.
Local groups and public services used a range of strategies to reach and communicate with the community. Voluntary services preferred to use word of mouth to publicise themselves, helping to form a sense of familiarity with residents and build trust. Leaflets were translated into a number of languages including Urdu and Slovak to reach as many facets of the community as possible.[9, p.8] Many residents were encouraged to pass on information themselves to help promote community led spending. Local organisations tended to communicate through existing networks and partnerships such as the Govanhill and Pollokshields Integration Network. Agency staff attended community group meetings and distributed leaflets to the Victoria Infirmary, Govanhill Health Centre, Daisy Street Neighbourhood Centre, the Larkfield Centre, places of worship, local schools and shops.
There were also attempts to reach people who avoid traditional services, this was especially important in tackling the language barriers to engagement, with residents in Govanhill speaking over 51 languages. Voluntary language experts helped convey information to Punjabi, Slovak and Czech speakers. The main translation services used by local agencies were the Glasgow Interpreting Service and Global Languages, who offer a 24/7 call center service. Public services have also had contact with vulnerable people and families through, health visitors, practice nurses and GPs, Glasgow Community Safety Services and Strathclyde Police.
Despite these methods, the scheme suffered from barriers to engagement due to transience and racism. Many EU migrants tended to cyclically return to their home nations or move to find employment. Asylum seekers similarly moved around the city due to changing housing contracts and so it is difficult for some residents to feel attachment to the area. The population increase has also increased community tensions within settled white and Asian communities, who were hostile towards migrants. Racism amongst younger people has led to factionalism and territorial disputes which can help explain the high levels of anti-social behaviour, which has prohibited voluntary services in some areas due to safety concerns. The diversity of community groups can lead to assumptions from white residents that the group has a BME focus and therefore is not for them.[9, p.9-10]
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative is an example of 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
Voluntary Health Scotland was asked by the Government Public Health and Wellbeing Directorate to scope the views of the third sector on current Government approaches to combating poverty and health inequalities. They found that a focus should be put on tackling poverty and its effects on health, as well as emphasising the need for early intervention and working with marginalised groups. 
Consultation by Voluntary Health Scotland consisted of two phases. An online enquiry, which garnered 123 responses in two weeks and a roundtable event in which the Minister for Public Health, the Director for Public Health and Wellbeing and the Deputy Director for Social Inclusion were present. At this time there was a shift towards devolving decision-making power to the Govanhill community, with other bodies taking an advisory role. [4, p.13]
The GoCA deliberation process was split into 3 parts. The first stage was a special meeting in June 2010 to discuss, identify and prioritise local themes. 21 individuals attended this meeting, representing 12 local community groups, 19 people from 13 other groups were not present. The facilitators prompted the group to think about priority themes and issues effecting Govanhill. The group was broken into two in order that discussion might be more inclusive and manageable. Separate group notes were taken and reported back when the groups reconvened. The facilitator then summarised discussion themes and prompted further dialog. The focus group reported that there was commitment to broadening the engagement and participation in the PB pilot. Some community groups mentioned that, despite receiving the GoCA minutes and agendas, they were not GoCA attendees and had not attended the meetings. GoCA members responded that although they already discussed key themes, they remained open to new ideas. Letters were sent to all known community groups describing the scheme and inviting them to participate in the decision-making process. However, focus group members recalled saying that if there was significant interest from other community groups, the PB process would be significantly lengthened.
The final stage involved another meeting of GoCA members, 21 individuals from 13 community groups, in September 2010. Participants expressed surprise and regret that there was no greater participation from the community beyond the regular GoCA members, with many questioning the effectiveness of the invitational letter and the initial exclusivity of GoCA meetings. Each group presented suggestions with minutes recalling a focus on ‘hard-to-reach’ sections of the Govanhill, perhaps as a response to low participation from these areas. The role of the Govanhill Housing Association as a local anchor organisation from which to base projects was also discussed. With minor adjustments agreed at the meeting, the four proposals totalled the available £200,000 of Equally Well monies. From the data gathered it appeared that there was no preferential treatment for any of the agreed projects.
PB discussion is traditionally facilitated by staff belonging to the sponsor, in this case the Scottish Government. However, there are cases where an independent organisation has responsibility for the impartial facilitation of public forums. Initial GoCA meetings were facilitated by Oxfam. GoCA and Public sector workers both were positive of Oxfam involvement, stating that “The Facilitation role that [Oxfam worker] delivered was fundamental to the Participatory Budgeting process with GoCA”. [14, p.19]
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Unlike other Equally Well test sites, the Govanhill test site did not have a particular health related theme. The test site was described as a localised approach aiming to improve several poor conditions in the area. This ‘complete approach’ was considered the best way to deal with the complexity of issues. [14, p.9]
The funded projects were:
- Govanhill addictions family support group - £40,000
- Govanhill community justice partnership - £60,000
- Govanhill baths trust health and wellbeing programs - £50,000
- Govanhill baths trust capital grant - £50,000
The process increased levels of engagement and volunteering in an area synonymous with apathy and disengagement. Projects funded were both ambitious and diverse, illustrating fresh thinking and an acute sense of local issues and were unanimous in prioritising ‘people over place’. The Govanhill hub was also established, where public and third sector partners are co-located and work together every week day. This was the culmination of increased collaboration between public sector workers and community members brought about through the PB process. An emerging theme from these discussions was the building of a stronger, respectful and trusting relationship between GoCA members and public sector employees.[14, p.16]
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The study describes unforeseen barriers to community participation in local decision making. Evidence suggests that public sector workers preferred to engage with ‘professionalised’ community members. The preference for community ‘professionalism’ potentially prohibits those from a non-professional or disadvantaged background from participating.
Holding the discussion and decision making in an open forum increased transparency and therefore the legitimacy of the decisions made but can make voting difficult for some participations. Ballot box voting (As seen in Porto Alegre scheme) may be the best approach, especially when involving diverse groups of people. Several unique demographics in the area means open forums risked descending into competitive, combative and heavily politicised debate which is detrimental to the joint feeling of community. This was evident in the ‘us vs. them mentality’ held by community groups that were not initially invited to GoCA meetings, despite efforts to be more inclusive and responsive after said meeting. In 2018 Govanhill is still described as socially deprived and is notorious with crumbling houses, racial tension and fear of crime  which puts the effectiveness of the scheme into question.
Results showed overall improvement in the health of the population and the decrease in average mortality rates. However, the gap between those with the best and the worst health outcomes persisted. Equally Well actions were more focused on mitigating the consequences of social inequalities, like smoking and alcohol misuse, than on addressing the long-term underlying causes, such as poverty and income. Despite its ambitions, Equally Well was primarily delivered as a health and well-being initiative with limited spread into other policy areas. Many of the underlying causes of health inequalities require a broader understanding of the need for social and economic solutions. This requires local PB groups cooperation with government initiatives to create cohesive policies across national and local levels. This can however lessen the agency of local groups which is a defining factor of PB initiatives. Government schemes should spend more time educating these groups into making their own more informed decisions in line with national objectives. This coincides with reviews of PB projects in Europe which claim the back-end of the PB process is crucial. They claimed that PB is a complex task due to multiple external and internal stakeholders involved. The demands on administration working between these groups is massive as PB often requires up-to-date and comprehensive information about the status of the process throughout its implementation. Results suggest that simplicity and quality of a PB project like Govanhill should paramount, with decision makers understanding budget and spending costs and communicating them clearly to others.
Collaborative Development of Glasgow’s Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Toolkit
An evaluation of Glasgow City participatory budgeting 2018-19
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