Posted by: iangilbert | February 22, 2012

Youth Matters

My first responsibility on Southend Council was to be the council’s ‘Youth Champion’. It was a very interesting and enjoyable role. I attended Youth Council regularly and gave updates on what the council was doing, helped with the Youth Mayor elections, passed a motion through council to get us to fund a member of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, worked with the Youth Mayor on a campaign to raise the age discount on local buses, chaired the Positive Activities Forum (probably the only opposition councillor to chair any subgroup of the LSP) and many other things besides.

Unfortunately the role of ‘Youth Champion’ along with other member champions was axed by the Conservatives a year or so back. This wasn’t a cost-cutting exercise, my role didn’t cost the council an extra penny. They disliked the fact that opposition councillors may have been gaining a small amount of influence and perhaps one or two other ‘champions’ were causing some very minor trouble for the administration.

‘Youth Champion’ might sound like a bit of a silly title, but in actual fact the issues I was dealing with were very important. “There’s not enough for young people to do” always scores very highly as an issue raised with councillors on the doorstep and in official surveys. Sadly our target for the number of young people participating in positive activities is not being routinely reported as a target anymore – perhaps this is convenient for the Conservatives given how they have cut youth work in the borough.

Still, I always enjoy working with our youth workers who are striving valiantly to do the best they can with limited resources. A previous push for more targeted youth work in parts of Victoria Ward led to football training sessions being run for young people in the ‘poets’ area. Yesterday I met with people in order to try to fill some more gaps in youth activities and give the young people in Victoria a greater range of positive activities.


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