The Chinese leadership is still reluctant to accept any reforms that are perceived to cause an erosion of the Communist Party of China’s monopoly of political power, although it is eager to improve governance, especially at the grassroots level. Participatory budgetary reforms as represented by the Wenling model are therefore perceived by some academics and local reformers as a channel through which breakthroughs in grassroots democracy in terms of public participation and government accountability can be achieved. Apparently this has gained some support from the top leadership—because some leaders are keen to reduce deficits and ensure budget transparency and accountability in local governments as well as at the top leadership—which now wants to combat corruption. Naturally, there is strong resistance because local governments are unwilling to limit their room for manoeuvre in terms of government expenditure and give up their control of extra-budgetary funds. While existing literature concentrates on the reform model and its rationale, this article offers a detailed empirical description of the actual reform processes at the local level. The Wenling consultative budgetary reforms were lauded and encouraged by Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th Party Congress on 8 November 2012. This offered the official support that the reformers needed, and provided the momentum they required to continue reforms and even promote them in other local governments. Of particular concern, however, is the intention of the Chinese leadership to incorporate this type of consultative mechanism into the framework of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; such a change would fall below the expectations of those who wish to secure breakthroughs in political participation.