Tuesday the 28th of March saw another step forward for youth democracy as the Youth Council and Youth Parliament election results were announced in Kingston upon Thames.
Charlie Adan, current CEO for the Royal Borough of Kingston, was acting as Returning Officer for the declaration event, and had only supportive things to say when asked her thoughts on the elections:
“The future of Kingston is in their hands. It is important to hear their voices about the future, where they want to see Kingston in twenty, thirty years’ time. We would love to start a conversation about the future with them.”
The declaration comes after six months of hard work for each candidate; already juggling schoolwork and a social life, each candidate began canvassing local schools for support, each writing manifestos and attending regular training sessions across Kinston and Richmond.
Youth Council elections are held every 2 years, with candidates in both Kingston and Richmond split into three clusters, each with twelve council spaces to be filled. Previous Youth Councils in Kingston and Richmond have undertaken projects in improving mental health and reducing the number of teenagers who smoke.
As for Youth Parliament, this is a national organisation who meets once a year in the House of Commons, and are the only other people in the UK allowed to sit there. They run debates and lobby the government for change using their chosen project. The campaign for 2016/17 was called ‘Make Your Mark’ and saw the debate for Votes at 16 receive media attention, broadcast on Channel Four. There is one position available per borough on the Youth Parliament, and competition for this place is always the fiercest.
The Youth Council election results were declared first and the results see thirty-one 11-18 year olds join the combined Kingston and Richmond Youth Council for the 2017-2019 session. The students joining the Youth Council from Kingston upon Thames are Marcus Dyke (from Hollyfield School), Piotr Piwowarczyk (from Chessington Community College), Freya McMurray, Isabella Topley, Leila Cocking, Ridwaanah Alamin and Sharine Yogeswaran (all students at Tolworth Girls’ School).
The elected Youth Parliament Member from Kingston upon Thames was Marcus Dyke, who attends the Dickerage Community Centre, winner of the Democracy Award for Highest Voter Turnout of any youth centre in the borough.
5775 young people voted in the three week period that voting was open for, with Chessington Community College winning the Democracy Award for Highest Voter Turnout of any school within Kingston, achieving a voter turnout of 96%, a result that most politicians will only ever dream of.
The experience of running for a position in youth representation has been a pleasure for all involved, and the elected Youth Council will go on to try and improve the lives of young people across Kingston and Richmond. Students should continue to show that youth representation puts councils and governments at an advantage when looking for the opinions of the general public. Recent budget cuts to Youth Services across the country will have no effect on the passion or determination that the elected youth officials have for their local areas.