Four Church of Scotland congregations are taking the lead in an exciting new project that will allow residents to decide how £20,000 of government grants should be spent.
‘Your Voice Your Choice’ is part of a Scottish Government initiative which aims to involve communities in decisions on where money should be spent.
The churches taking part are Carrick Knowe and Old Kirk Muirhouse in Edinburgh, St Andrews in Arbroath, and Cranhill Parish Church in Glasgow.
Finlay Buchanan, session clerk at Carrick Knowe Church said church members have flyered every house in the parish.
“I think it is a great chance to get people involved with things happening in the community and how grant money is spent. We don’t want anyone to miss out on this great opportunity.”
Each of the churches invited community groups in their area to apply for up to £1000 from a total of £5000 available for each parish. Applications closed on Friday 17 March.
Each church will now hold an event where community members aged 10 and above can vote.
Participatory Budgeting which is the formal name for the process of communities deciding on where local money is spent was first piloted in Brazil. It has been praised for bringing communities together and instilling a sense of ownership and trust in local people.
Since 2014, the Scottish government has worked with 20 local authorities across Scotland to pilot the approach. Last year the government created a £2 million Community Choices Fund to reach some of Scotland’s most deprived areas.
Rev Stephen Emery, the minister at Old Kirk Muirhouse, said applications had rolled in from a range of community groups.
“Most grant funding involves larger amounts of money and the applications are very complicated. These applications are very simple so it is easy for small community groups to apply.
“So far we have one application from a youth group whose premises suffered damage and they are looking for money to help with repairs, for example. Another is from a youth group looking for equipment. It’s about real down-to-earth issues that groups are trying to deal with.”
Susan Macfarlane, a vocations volunteer working with Rev Martin Fair at St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath, said Your Voice Your Choice is creating a buzz on social media and in the street.
“I am hearing a lot of excitement about the opportunity to vote on what’s going to happen in the community and being able to take that lead.
“It is great that the whole community will be coming together at the event. People are making new contacts and that is fabulous.”
Rev Muriel Pearson, minister at Cranhill Parish Church explained that everyone will get five votes that they must use to put towards different projects.
“People are quite surprised by how simple it is. We are letting children as young as 10 vote and it’s drawing people from different parts of the community together.
“We’ve had quite a few applications already and we hope we are going to have a good event.
“Sometimes it’s the little ideas that make all the difference.”
The Cranhill Development Trust, which is managing the particpatory budgeting effort, will try to help everyone who applies, the minister added.
Old Kirk Muirhouse: Saturday 25 March at 10am
Carrick Knowe: Saturday March 25 from 10am-12.30pm
Cranhill Parish Church: Saturday 25 March from 3pm –6pm
St Andrew’s Parish Church Arbroath: Tuesday 28 March at 7pm