At a Council meeting tonight (6th July) Green Councillors have welcomed the approval of recommendations developed by the Bristol’s first Citizens Assembly, and called on Bristol Council to follow up the successful trial by implementing participatory budgets.
Clifton Councillor and leader of the Green Group Paula O’Rourke said she was “delighted” the process will be embedded into the Council’s decision making and highlighted some of the bold recommendations produced by the assembly, for example the assembly called for 3-5% of parking and road space to be transferred to walking, cycling and green space each year. The Citizen’s Assembly was made up of a representative cross section of 60 Bristolians (selected from a range of backgrounds to broadly reflect Bristol’s demographic mix), and produced recommendations on how the city should reduce the impact of housing on climate change, improvements to transport and tackling health inequalities in Bristol.
“I am delighted that the process of citizens’ assemblies are to be embedded into the city’s decision making, as these forms of deliberative democracy can only make for a more inclusive society. A post-assembly survey of the citizens who took part shows that they are much more likely to take part in all forms of democracy now – from voting to even considering standing for election – so, I think we can say that we ‘rebooted democracy’!
“I would urge everyone to read the actions beneath the recommendations as this is where the real strength lies. They are clear and concrete and give the administration a clear steer on how they want the City to develop and change. For example, under recommendation 9, citizens say they that by 2030 they want 80% of all journeys in Bristol to be by public transport or active travel and to get to that they recommend transferring 3-5% of parking and road space to walking cycling and green space, each year, leading up to that date. That is what informed opinion leads to. The citizens were told of the obstacles to improving public transport and active travel and they have come up with clear and measurable ways of removing some of those obstacles. This is a clear mandate to take action which will improve health and reduce congestion – both areas of concern for our citizens.”
Councillor O’Rourke added that one of the initial calls of the original Green motion that was passed in 2020 was for the Council to trial participatory budgets, where citizens could vote on money to be allocated to improvements in their neighbourhoods. An example of this has taken place in Paris, where between 2014 and 2020 about 500 million euros (5% of the city’s capital fund) has been earmarked to be spent by residents on projects of their choosing, selected by voting.
The Green Councillor suggested the Council could use ‘Area Committees’ which allocate funding for small local infrastructure improvements to do this:
“I would also like to draw attention to the motion of the Full Council which I proposed back in 2019, as it suggested two pilots, one the citizens’ assembly and the other was a participatory budget. I suggested that devolving some funding to the Area Committees would be another way to ‘reboot democracy’ and I remember that Marvin spoke positively about this. I would like this to be considered as we progress towards next year’s budget.”
You can find some information on the Citizens’ Assembly and the full report on its 17 recommendations here.
Some of the other actions included in the Assembly report to the Council, most of which had a very high degree of consensus, were to: