This week I attended the Labour Party Annual Conference and spoke about engaging local people in democracy and delivering services, and how I have worked with local young people in Kidsgrove to set up a Youth Parliament
I told conference:
“The Tories decimated our Youth Services in Staffordshire despite 16,000 people signing a petition opposing the cuts. Young people are feeling more vulnerable than ever in these difficult times, they rely on these key support services.”
“In the face of these cold and calculating cuts, young people are responding in the most positive and extraordinary ways. Setting up their own Youth Parliament within the Town of Kidsgrove, they are now delivering Youth Services with support of the Labour Town Council. With a budget of £2000 a year, the Youth Parliament has helped clean up their community by installing flower beds, donating benches to the local war memorial, setting up knitting with ‘nanas groups’ and organising youth advice days in the absence of formal Youth Services.”
“Young people are choosing to use their own funds to support everyone, in particular the elderly. Their hard work and direct involvement in the community has helped break down barriers and created a more caring atmosphere that all have benefitted from.”
I talked about how inspiring it is to see young people engaging in locally based work and getting involved where previously they were ignored.
I reinforced to the Conference audience the importance of the Labour Party policy pledge to give votes to sixteen year olds in all elections, telling them that this would help to determine that young people and their concerns won’t be ignored by politicians and the decision makers.
Education on local government and politics needs to improve. Far too often young people are leaving school not knowing a single thing about their right to vote and how to have their say on local and national issues. This needs to change if we want to rid ourselves of apathy that does our communities no favours.