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Pictured: Ian Gardner, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dobbie Hall, and Laura Morgan, Hall Manager, celebrate securing funds through Community Choices.

After a record number of votes were cast by the public, 26 projects have successfully secured funds totalling £777,364 through Community Choices.

A total of 23,039 eligible votes were cast by local people in favour of the community-led projects they want to see happen in their neighbourhood – that’s a 37% increase on the 16,854 eligible votes cast during the last phase.

This is the third round of Falkirk Council and Falkirk Health & Social Care Partnership’s participatory budgeting programme, Community Choices.

Through a public vote, the initiative offers a democratic way for local people to have a direct say in how public money can be used to address their priorities and invest in community-led projects.

Each voter can cast up to three votes in favour of projects bidding for a Place-based Capital Grant and up to three votes in support of projects looking to secure a Small Grant.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council said: "The number of votes cast shows participatory budgeting can and does work. Groups bidding for grants worked hard to drum up support, harness community spirit and inspire local people to get behind their bids and vote. A huge thank you goes out to all the groups who submitted applications and to all those who voted."

Successful projects

Pictured (left to right): Carrigan Kerr, Fundraiser Manager and Cristina Pouso, Centre Fundraising Manager, Maggie’s Forth Valley. The charity successfully secured a Small Grant.

Pictured (left to right): Carrigan Kerr, Fundraiser Manager, and Cristina Pouso, Centre Fundraising Manager, Maggie’s Forth Valley. The charity successfully secured a Small Grant.

In total 16 community groups based across Falkirk Council’s nine wards have secured Capital Grants ranging from £14,000 to £146,424 and 10 groups have secured Small Grants of up to £5,000 each.

One of the groups to successfully secure a Capital Grant is The Dobbie Hall Trust. It will use its £75,200 grant to replace flooring and seating in the balcony area of the popular venue.

Ian Gardner, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dobbie Hall, said: “Each year, more than 60,000 people attend events and live performances held in the venue. Securing the grant means we will be able to carry out essential work that will make the hall safer, more comfortable and an even more attractive place to visit, and it will bring more of the local community together. We truly are speechless at the support we’ve had from the local community and want to thank everyone who voted for our project.”

While Maggie’s Forth Valley will use the £5,000 it has secured through the Small Grants Programme to set up additional support groups for people with cancer and their family and friends.

Cristina Pouso, Fundraising Manager, Maggie’s Forth Valley, said: “Over the past two years, people with cancer have been feeling particularly isolated. The need for peer support in a safe environment has never been greater. We are so grateful to everyone who voted for our project. The grant will help us continue to provide support to people who need it.”

Additional funds

cecil meiklejohn with members of the communities team responsible for community choices

Pictured: Cllr Meiklejohn (second from right) with members of the Council’s Communities Team who organised phase 3 and helped count and verify both digital and paper ballot votes.

Three years ago Councillors agreed to create a Community Choices fund that would make c£3m available to community groups to take forward project ideas voted for by local residents.

Since officially launching in 2021, 129 projects have secured c£2.7m of public funds - and communities are starting to see the benefits.

Due to the success of the initiative, councillors agreed on 1 March that a further £500k should be allocated from the Council’s budget to Community Choices to bolster funds for the coming year.

Cllr Meiklejohn said: “Community Choices offers people a transparent, democratic and direct way to get involved in decision making. Since launching, the initiative has helped shine a light on the immense amount of work community groups do, and the wide range of support and activities they offer that meet local need. By agreeing the additional funds, it provides further opportunity for people to get involved and decide how to invest public money in a way that benefits their local community most.”