People across Dundee are to be given the chance to vote on how the council spends cash in their own area, with the results announced in a “Eurovision-style” extravaganza.
The council agreed in August to use “participatory budgeting” when spending its £1.2 million Community Infrastructure Fund.
Each of Dundee’s eight council wards will get £150,000 to spend on infrastructure improvements but participatory budgeting allows residents to vote on which projects will get funding.
Although other Scottish councils have used participatory budgeting to decide where some grant money is spent, Dundee City Council is the first local authority to allocate a proportion of its budget to the scheme.
The Scottish Government has said it wants councils to eventually spend 1% of their overall budget – around £3 million in Dundee’s case – via participatory budgeting.
Voting for the new scheme – dubbed “Dundee Decides” – will take place in February and March next year with the results announced shortly after voting ends.
It is expected a list of potential projects for funding will be compiled by the end of next month.
People will be able to vote online but there will also be a series of community events to ensure those who are not online are not deprived of the chance to have their say.
Dundee City Council head of communities Marie Dailly said: “Basically, participatory budgeting is a method of involving the community and public in decisions about finance.
“The idea behind it is a change in the way decisions are made and widening democracy. It has been quite widely used in Europe, Iceland in particular, and in big cities like Paris and New York.
“It’s about transparency in terms of how decisions are made and giving people the opportunity to see the process that goes into making a decision.
“So people can see there are choices in that process and moving them from what some people might perceive as being done behind closed doors or without their full involvement.”
Community health and regeneration manager John Hosie said: “The reality is this is an excellent opportunity for local people to influence how money is spent.
“There is a lot of interest because Dundee is the first local authority to top-slice its mainstream budget to the sum of £1.2 million.”
The money will be used to pay for improvements to play areas, cycle routes, roads, pavements and other forms of infrastructure.
Mr Hosie said areas like green spaces had proved popular in previous community engagement exercises.
He added: “It’s a lot of money but it will go very quickly in each ward in terms of how people will vote.”
After the votes have been counted and verified, the council is planning an event to announce which projects have won the popular vote.
Ms Dailly said: “We’re thinking we might have an event a bit like the Eurovision Song contest, something like that, where we announce it.
“Because it isn’t instant due to all the security checks we are thinking of some sort of event where we reveal it and get the communities involved.”
Mr Hosie added: “Other local authorities have had much lesser pots of money from external grants, which is why there is considerable interest in what’s happening in Dundee.
“We’re trying to lay a really good foundation but we’ll learn from it and refine for next time.”
A meeting will take place on Saturday at the Central Baptist Church on Ward Road from 9.15am to 1.15pm to further discuss the programme.
Anyone who wants to attend should email email@example.com