The following article describes the ups and downs of the participatory budgeting initiative in Salford, U.K. The author questions whether the people are truly having their say and being heard, or whether community voices have are being drowned out by the power structure within this somewhat token and incomplete participatory model. This case demonstrates the need for such initiatives to be firmly rooted at the grassroots level in order for them to be successful. - Editor
Power to Which People?
The government is promising ’devolution right to the doorstep’ as a means of reinvigorating local democracy. A pilot participatory budget making project, whereby people can ’have a direct say’ in how their taxes are spent, has been running in Salford. Stephen Kingston questions its democratic credentials
Nearly 170 years ago, more than a quarter of a million people marched to Kersal Moor, in Salford, demanding democracy. One of the biggest of the many demonstrations organised by the Chartist movement in the mid-19th century, this huge rally was the Live Aid of its day, with more than 30 bands playing. But instead of Bob Geldof demanding ‘Give us yer fuckin’ money’, there was Feargus O’Connor demanding ‘Give us the fuckin’ vote’.
After much campaigning and demonstrating, five of the six points of the People’s Charter, adopted on Kersal Moor that day, were eventually won. As well as the right to vote itself, these were: secret ballots, equal electoral districts, no property qualification to stand as an MP and payment for MPs. The exception to this successful record was the demand for annual parliaments, which was seen by the Chartists as crucial to stop the corruption of MPs...To read the full article click HERE