Watchdog highlights success of participatory budgets in Poland

6 Sep 19

Participatory budgets have enabled “effective cooperation” between residents and municipal authorities in Poland, the country’s Supreme Audit Office has said.

Since Sopot, a town of about 40,000 people next to the Baltic Sea in Poland, set up participatory budgeting in 2011, dozens of other Polish cities have also begun their own schemes.

They usually make between 0.5% and 2% of the budget open to the public. Projects are proposed by the community and are then put to a popular vote.

Examples of successful projects the Supreme Audit Office found included new sports facilities, new roads, defibrillators in public places, playgrounds and air quality sensors in cities.

But there was generally low turnout on the public votes: an average of just 18% of eligible residents took part between 2016 and 2018, although there was high regional variance.

In Kalisz and Pleszew turnout averaged at about 70%, but in Piotrków Trybunalski, Aleksandrów Łódzki and Kraków the figure was between 4% and 5%.

The watchdog pointed to Sopot as having “good practice” in informing residents, who all receive leaflets with information on the budget schedule, details of meetings and model application forms, and every year the budget is promoted with a themed campaign including recognisable images and a slogan.

In some areas, auditors found that rules specifying a minimum level of local support for a project before it can be put to a vote, such as requiring signatures on an application, could discourage people from submitting their suggestions.

The report argued: “Some residents with interesting ideas do not want or do not have time to engage in creating lists of support for their proposals.”

Participatory budgeting is a growing trend around the world, as the senior director of policy at the International Budget Partnership told PF International earlier this year.

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