Participatory budgeting in Seville

01 May 2007
Article
Inspired by the example of Porto Alegre in Brazil, participatory budgeting was introduced in Seville in 2004 by the Socialist and United Left coalition on the city council.
Inspired by the example of Porto Alegre in Brazil, participatory budgeting was introduced in Seville in 2004 by the Socialist and United Left coalition on the city council, which has a very small majority. The city of 700,000 people is divided into 21 assemblies, which were attended by around 9,000 people in 2006. The assemblies have their own constitution, known as ‘autorreglamento’, which was drafted by a commission of delegates elected by the assemblies. Each year the council decides the amount that will be allocated by the assemblies, but at least 50 per cent of the city’s budget for local districts is within their control. Currently, the city council’s departments of public works, sport, youth, education, culture, environment, health and gender have opted to join. The assemblies choose delegates to monitor the execution of policies; they are accountable to the assemblies from which they were elected. Participatory budgeting has led to the construction of a network of cycle lanes across the city, as well as several swimming pools and sports grounds. Urban renewal programmes, such as the construction of new drains and pavements, have also been undertaken in poorer neighbourhoods and priorities agreed for repairing schools. A community radio station is due to start broadcasting later this year. Right-wing parties on the city council oppose participatory budgeting, as do local newspapers. Public sector unions have also opposed user involvement in services. But according to Javier Navascués, director of the think-tank Fundación de Investigaciones Marxistas, ‘Many people who were suspicious about the process at first have joined it and are quite enthusiastic ... A core of people with very different political and social backgrounds are building a new common global vision of the city in a very practical way.’ Up to 20 other cities and towns in Spain, invariably controlled by the Socialist Party or the United Left, have introduced participatory budgeting.