26 July 2006

Ward Forums To Begin in September/October

Here in Coventry, 18 ward-level forums are being established to replace the former area forums (South West, South Central, North, etc). The final meeting of the South West area forum (which includes Earlsdon, where we ran in May 2006) was on 22nd June.

For now, Coventry City Council plans for them to meet quarterly, and they're hoping for a "high level of participation" from the public. The ward forums will begin meeting in September and October.

The next step would be to extend and deepen this process.

The Coalition's participatory budgeting process takes over a year to allocate funding and implement projects. The process consists of five main phases.

1. Starting in December, the Coalition discusses citywide priorities for the year and reviews the budgeting process.

2. Residents meet in their neighborhood groups to discuss citywide and neighborhood spending priorities. Each group prepares project proposals, including a "needs" budget and a "wants" budget. The residents elect two delegates to represent each group in the Coalition.

3. The neighborhood delegates meet to share their budget proposals. City staff and Coalition funders outline the funds that are available. After the meeting, neighborhood groups re-evaluate their needs and wants.

4. The neighborhood delegates meet to decide on budget allocations. The delegates negotiate on the proposed activities until they agree by consensus on a budget.

5. Neighborhood groups implement and monitor their projects through a yearlong funding cycle.

City residents, neighborhood groups, partner organizations and city staff collaborate throughout the budgeting process. Residents in participating neighborhoods, most of which are low income, identify community priorities and develop project proposals. Neighborhood groups, representing over 1,100 residents on average, advocate for these priorities and implement funded projects.

To reduce obstacles to participation, the Coalition offers childcare, eldercare, oral and written translation services for nine languages and transportation reimbursements for participants in need.

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