Cambridgeshire trials appalling way to distribute money to women’s services

Eleanor Cramer writes (in part):

Two weeks ago, Cambridgeshire received what sounded like good news: it had been chosen to pilot the government’s scheme for ‘participatory budgeting’. Described as “allowing local people to decide how public money is spent in their community”, you’d be forgiven for thinking we might be able to make local priorities known.

But the budget is to be allocated within just one sector: services responding to violence against women and girls. Charities invited to compete include Cambridge Women’s Aid, Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, and Cambridge Women and Homelessness. The public will be entrusted with only £11,500, and no bid will receive more than £3000.

The scheme seems to be based more on TV than transparent democracy. At first, eight bids “will be shortlisted” (we have not been told by whom, or how). Then the people will choose which to fund, voting via text or just one physical venue for the whole county, Cambridge Central Library. How this poll will be publicised, and how, for example, multiple voting will be prevented, has not been made clear. However, even if this project didn’t make a mockery out of democracy, it would still be an unacceptable way to fund services addressing violence against women….

As a society, we are not specialists in these difficult and complex issues: asking us to choose between these closely interrelated charities is as absurd as voting on funding the Addenbrookes surgical team v. cancer care.