A groundbreaking experiment in real democracy is taking place in the Wokingham Borough, as people in the Norreys ward take control of the purse strings and vote on funding for local community projects that meet local needs.
In March, the Norreys Neighbourhood Project announced that local people were taking control of a £5,000 Community Budget. Residents and community groups were invited to come up with project ideas that they thought could make a real difference to their community - and then bid for a share of the money to put them into action.
Eight ideas have been put forward, including a community garden project and equipment for volunteers who respond to 999 ambulance calls in the local area.
And now those people living in the area, which includes Dowlesgreen, Glebelands, Beanoak, and Keephatch estates, are voting on which projects they wish to see funded.
Lou Barker, Norreys community worker and long-time local resident, said: "All the projects put forward sound great and would no doubt bring real benefits here. But what is special about this is that the ideas come from local people and local people are going to decide how the money is spent. Everyone in the area has a chance to vote on this and I really hope loads of them get involved."
One vote is allowed per individual, and voting forms will be arriving through every door within the area by Wednesday June 1, with information about the projects.
On Thursday June 9, a Community Forum is taking place at Norreys Church from 7pm to 9pm for people to find out more about each project and ask questions before voting.
How to vote
Residents can also vote in advance of the meeting in the following ways:
Votes in advance must be received by the close of play on Thursday June 8.
Josie Wragg, Wokingham Borough Council’s head of strategic partnerships, said: "The community budget is part of the Norreys Neighbourhood Project, which has given people in the area the chance to identify what their community really needs and is now supporting them to come up with ways to meet those needs.
"£5,000 is not a huge amount of money in terms of public spending but the principle of giving control of spending directly to the local community is hugely significant. We have not done this before in the Wokingham Borough and we see it as another step towards a better, more open and two-way relationship with residents."
For more information on the project, or the community budget readers can visit the project’s website page, search for ‘Norreys Project’ on Facebook, email: email@example.com, or call (0118) 974 6043.