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Are we still using citizen budgets?

10 of August '23
w skrócie
  1. Citizen budgets, introduced more than a decade ago in our cities, are a participatory tool.
  2. They started with larger cities and then spread to smaller centers.
  3. Currently, as a form of participation, their effectiveness is being studied in the context of various aspects.
  4. As part of the #Thursday Report series, the report "Citizen Budget Barometer. 2022 Edition"
  5. The report analyzes the history and effects of civic budgets and their changes in the context of finances, turnout and selected projects.
  6. The authors emphasize the need for continuous evaluation and adjustment of the civic budget formula in order for it to function effectively as a tool for city participation.

  7. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal

Citizen budgets began to appear in our cities more than a decade ago. At first on the initiative of larger cities, and then they moved smoothly to smaller centers. How are they doing today as an element of participation?

As part of our #ReportThursday series, we present documents, reports and guides on architecture, cities and local government that are certainly worth publicizing and promoting. This week we look at the report "Citizen Budget Barometer. 2022 Edition" compiled by Boris Martela, Liliana Janik and Kamil Mroz (IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory).

Barometr budżetu obywatelskiego. Edycja 2022 - najnowszy raport OBM IRMiR

Citizen Budget Barometer. 2022 edition - the latest OPM IRMiR report.

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

The barometer is available on the IRMiR website

magic tool

Among the everlasting events in everyone's life can be counted the first vote or canvassing within the framework of the civic budget (and also the first defeat, if your project, like the one I worked on, did not get enough votes). The magical participatory tool, which was born in Sopot in 2011, has spread all over Poland. Today, 43.5% of cities with more than five thousand residents have their civic budgets.

In the public discourse, there has been a growing voice about the "burnout" of this solution - the decline in turnout, the substitution of municipal institutions' activities or even the multiplication of bureaucracy. What the facts are about civic budgets, the OBM-IRMiR report tried to examine.

frekwencja w głosowaniach jest stabilna

Voting turnout is stable

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

rising or falling?

Recent years have not been spared by the economy and society - the Polish Deal, the COVID-19 pandemic, the outbreak of war in Ukraine or galloping inflation for an extended period of time have affected city budgets. How has this translated into the organization of civic budgets?

In 2022, Polish cities have set aside as much as PLN 630.5 million for this tool. As the authors point out, BO funding between 2021 and 2022 reached a stable level. Only 4% of cities decreased funding for these projects, and in 28% they increased, although in most cities the increase in outlays did not exceed inflationary values. While finances in civic budgets appeared stable, turnout issues proved more volatile. As many as 40.5% of municipalities saw a decline in turnout. 28.4% of cities recorded an increase, while in the remaining 30.9% of centers it remained without major deviations.

wydatki i aktywność budżetów obywatelskich jest stabilna

spending and activity of civic budgets is stable

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

In a small aspect, the topics of selected projects also changed. Infrastructure measures, green areas and recreation were predominant. In 2022, there was a noticeable increase in interest in soft projects, resulting from the end of pandemic restrictions - one in four selected projects was "soft" in nature.

w dużych miastach budżet obywatelski częściej istnieje w formule uchwały wieloletniej - to istotny element trwałości projektu

In large cities, the civic budget more often exists in the formula of a multi-year resolution - an important element of project sustainability

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

full of mistakes, peculiarities and ideas for the future

The report by IRMiR's experts contains not only a summary of the results, finances and statistics of BO in Polish cities, but also a lot of information about all scopes of this tool. The authors allow you to understand the legal changes at the national level that occurred in 2018 after the legal regulation of civic budgets - the introduction of mandatory BO organization for cities with county rights.

w związku ze zmianami prawnymi, część uchwał ustalanych w miastach jest błędna. najczęściej do uchwalania ustaw z błędami dochodzi w woj. Dolnośląskim

Due to the legal changes, some of the resolutions set in cities are incorrect, the most frequent adoption of laws with errors occurs in the Lower Silesian voivodeship

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

The report also provides information on how local resolutions are shaped, how residents are defined (by registration or tax residency), and unusual, often negative solutions, such as issues of limiting participation for officials. The reader is guided through each stage from procedure to project implementation, considering what needs to be changed in them.

budżety można dzielić na pule związane ze środkami przeznaczonymi na projekty osiedlowe lub tematyczne

Budgets can be divided into pools related to funds allocated to neighborhood or thematic projects

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

The civic budget can still be an effective tool as a participatory element of cities, but it cannot remain unchanged. The condition for its success remains constant evaluation and real care for its formula. Such activities are not always taken seriously, especially in cities that are obliged to organize BO.

The barometer is available on the IRMiR website.


compiled by Wiktor Bochenek

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