Open, Transparent & Participatory Budgeting

What is your name and where do you live?

Mo Sykes – Swansea ( originally North of Ireland )

What is your role in the community now?

Elected as Ward Councillor for Llansamlet last May. I’m also a Governor at Birchgrove Comprehensive School, Trustee of Bikeability Wales, Chairperson of the Friends of Swansea Vale Nature Reserve, advocate for vulnerable people amongst other things

What previous experience do you have of working in the community?

I trained as a professional youth worker back in 1991 and have worked with children and young people throughout my career promoting and protecting their rights and creating opportunities for young people to develop confidence, resilience and ambition. Before moving to Wales I was very involved in human rights, political education and youth representation across political and cultural divisions and continue to believe that by empowering children and young people we will make this world a better place.

What budgets do you have to spend?

As a county councillor I am allocated a budget of £50K over the 5 year term of office to spend within my Ward.

Who gives you the money?

Swansea County Council

What are you allowed to spend these budgets on?

Anything that will improve communities in our ward.

How do you decide what to spend your budget on?

To date I have used my own value base to make decisions – does it improve the life of those living in the community, does it contribute to positive, inclusive and diverse community and can my assistance help to lever further investment into Llansamlet Ward.

What is the process for people who might want to access some of your budget?

They can suggest ideas on VocalEyes and also email me directly – cllr.mo.sykes@swansea.gov.uk

How can people find out what you’ve spent your budget on?

Details of what each Councillor allocates is posted on the Council Website

How much do you have left?

I’m using the participatory budgeting feature in the Llansamlet community group on VocalEyes so you can see an up to date balance online here: https://vocaleyes.org/vocaleyes/budgets/view/id/45#transactions-45

What are you doing that is innovative or different?

Given my commitment to the rights of children and young people I feel it is only rights that they should be able to come forward with ideas that we can fund – things that would improve community life for themselves – either their school community or where they live.

How do you see VocalEyes helping you with this?

In the first of its kind we will be using VocalEyes tools to go into schools and find out what they think – come up with some priorities and get on with delivering either using our budgets or finding other sources of funding for the area.

Why do you think open and transparent budgeting is important?

Many local people have little or no idea of the budgets available to them. It’s really important we find ways for residents to discover these budgets and get actively involved in influencing how they are spent.

Who else has a similar budget?

All councillors in Swansea have the same budget. Approx £50k to spend over 5 years.

How do you hope to raise awareness and engage people in participatory budgeting?

In general most people are at best apathetic when it comes to politics and think that either it doesn’t affect them or its too far removed from their own reality that it is irrelevant. I want to help young people and the wider community think differently – politics is all around us and its important to take notice of whats going on – people are making decision which effect you every day and should be held accountable and tell you what they are doing and why. If at the end of this we have a bunch of young people asking questions and getting involved it’ll be job done!

Where do you think participatory budgeting is going in general, locally, nationally, globally?

Well actually it won’t be job done – it’ll be job started – you see this model can actually engage anyone about any issue financial or not. This is about finding new ways to connect with people locally, nationally and globally. We have some very big headline issues that need to be addresses and that can’t be done well without everyone playing their role – because it’s the everyday choices which we make that will determine our future and that of the next generations.

What are your aspirations for your community generally?

I have simple aspirations for my community – that people feel supported, have enough to eat and sustain a family life and have the opportunities to progress with their hopes and dreams ….

OK thank you very much indeed Mo, let’s finish with some fun questions..

Where would you go in a time machine?

No thanks quite happy where I am

Which super power would you like to have?

Always feel like getting out of bed in the morning

Which is your favorite quote?

Lead, follow or get out of my way…

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Invest in the future of humanity – haven’t a clue

What’s your favourite film?

Last film I watched was Peter Rabbit – haven’t got a favourite depends what mood I’m in

What book are you reading at the moment?

Currently how to think like Stephen Hawking …..I wish!

If you were offered a free ticket, would you go to Mars?

I wouldn’t be fussed one way or another – so if there was only one ticket I would give it to my daughter as she wants to explore space

Interview with Mo Sykes, Swansea, UK