Breckland youth council elected
They are the next generation of politicians and 15 youngsters from Breckland are already taking a seat at the table of power.After weeks of manifesto writing and campaigning three young people from each of Breckland's five market towns were elected to the district's new youth council on Friday.
They are the next generation of politicians and 15 youngsters from Breckland are already taking a seat at the table of power.
After weeks of manifesto writing and campaigning three young people from each of Breckland's five market towns were elected to the district's new youth council on Friday.
Far from a token gesture, the election saw more than 1,600 young voters between the ages of 11 and 19 participate in an online poll and local politicians have pledged the new youth council will have real teeth.
Working on the principle of power through participation, during their two year tenure the new youth councillors will be given more than just an insight into the workings of local democracy.
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In a unique strategy, designed to ensure the voice of young people is heard loud and clear, members of the youth council will be given a seat on many of Breckland Council's committees and be allowed to speak during debates.
Though other youth council groups exist within Norfolk, the council is the first to be elected and to be treated in such a mature manner.
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Cat Lang, community development officer at Breckland, said other councils around the country were looking at the project with interest.
She said: “Breckland is certainly the first council in Norfolk to run formal elections to form a youth council.
“In other areas there are youth forums where young people have put themselves forward but none have been elected like this.
“It provides an opportunity for young people to see how the council processes work and take a part in them.”
And it seems Breckland's more mature politicians are more than ready to listen and have their ideas questioned by people who will often be less than half their age.
Council leader William Nunn said: “What we hope to do is engage these young people in the work of the local authority so they have a genuine effect of the debates and the decisions we make.
“It is so easy for people of my age to think we know what young people would like to see in their community but if we do not engage with them we are missing out on a great opportunity.”
And it seems the 15 elected youngsters already have strong ideas about what they want to see happen.
Stuart Green, who was elected for Dereham, said: “I hope to be able to fully participate in how the council is run and what happens.
“This is important because it means we will be able to have a voice.”
Stuart said he already had several things on his agenda including improving cycle provision and the provision of youth activities.
Amy Head, who was elected for Swaffham, said she would be pushing for better transport and accessibility to services for young people living in rural areas.
She said: “Young people get a bad press and I want to let people know that we are here doing a responsible job and bringing things forward for young people.”