Young citizens are shaping the future of our local democracy
“Young people’s voices must be heard… and they are being heard here today”
– Jacob Stelling, Kirklees Youth Councillor
Members of Kirklees Youth Council, councillors, MPs, Kirklees citizens and many local and national organisations took part in a special event to celebrate the launch of the “Growing a stronger local democracy” report on Friday 30 June 2017.
The landmark report shares the findings and recommendations of the Kirklees Democracy Commission, who have been investigating what a strong and healthy local democracy should look like in Kirklees, for the next generation – and beyond. Their report is the result of a year of research in which 1,000 people shared their ideas and experiences of local democracy.
Kirklees Youth Council have been part of the project every step of the way. In an early discussion group, some of the youth councillors shared their fear that young people are often “invisible in local politics”. The Commission took this to heart and have made recommendations about helping young citizens to be heard, by creating pathways for young people to get involved in local democracy. Ideas include educational resources, school surgeries, a mentoring scheme and apprenticeships for young councillors.
“We’re strongly aware of our responsibility to our young citizens. We want to develop an environment and a culture that nurtures young people’s interest in local democracy. This is important as young people currently don’t have as much of a stake in civic society, for many reasons. Our schools are a good place to make a start.” – Kirklees Democracy Commission report
Speaking at the event, youth councillor Matthew Moran said “If decision makers talked to young people… then they’d believe that they can actually make a difference… and rather than just being a generation of complainers, we’d make a generation of changers.”
Youth councillor Jacob Stelling made an appeal for our council not to be distant or separate from young people, saying: “We make better decisions together.”
Abbie Scholefield shared her thoughts about the value of social networks for local democracy, and Mehrissa Sufi spoke about young women in politics. Kirklees Youth Council also ran one of the five local democracy workshops on the day, and took part in a live Question Time session.
The “Growing a stronger local democracy” report includes ideas for working with active citizens, making the most of digital technologies and culture, suggestions about councillors, decision-making and elections, and how we can get local voices heard in regional devolution. These recommendations could help shape how both local and national democracy could develop over the next decade.
The Kirklees Democracy Commission are a group of Kirklees councillors from a range of political parties. Dr Andy Mycock from the University of Huddersfield is the Commission’s independent chair.
The University of Huddersfield hosted the special launch event, which was opened by Professor Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Jacqui Gedman, Chief Executive of Kirklees Council.
Introducing the report on behalf of the Commissioners, Cllr Cathy Scott made a pledge to act on the recommendations in the report:
“This report will not just sit on the shelf. This is an opportunity for change…
We’ve got so many young people here today. You’ve changed my thoughts and I know you’ve changed those of a lot of the Commissioners.” – Cllr Cathy Scott, Commissioner