Melbourne City Council's Experiment in Participatory Budgeting



Melbourne's People's Panel makes bold decisions where politicians fear to tread
The Age


The Melbourne City Council recently held its first experiment in participatory budgeting. In 2014, a 'citizen's jury' of 43 residents and business owners, known as the Melbourne's People Panel, were selected to make recommendations on the Council's 10-year, $5 billion financial plan.

The Panel were given access to the Council's financial data and recieved briefings from senior bureaucrats, councillors and relevant experts. The Panel presented their recommendations in a report to Council, which included suggestions on how to deal with the estimated $2.1 billion gap between projected revenues and Council promises.

The author concludes that the Panel 'proved itself to be unencumbered by the entrenched positions of political parties and the powerful lobbying efforts of vested interests on issues like developer contributions'.

Political scientists from the University of Melbourne surveyed the Panel members earlier this year. Key findings amongst the participants include:

  • Unanimous support for 'more citizen involvement in the policy-making process'
  • Increased belief that 'citizens can be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of the broader community'
  • Greater levels of trust and confidence in Council
  • Higher levels of general satisfaction with the future direction of the city.

More background on the Panel and the full report can be viewed here:


Thumbnail image: Melbourne Town Hall. By Alan Lam/Flickr.

Nicholas Reece

University of Melbourne. Former ALP Victorian secretary and adviser to Julia Gillard, Steve Bracks and John Brumby.

Published Date
April 1, 2015