Slough’s Democracy awards

Last week, along with Cllr Hussain, I had the pleasure of attending the Slough for Youth Democracy Awards. The evening was a celebration of the achievements of our young people, and saw new representatives elected to Slough’s Youth Parliament.

The evening provided further evidence, if any at was needed!, that our young people are keen, ready, able and willing to get involved and help shape the future of our town.

67% of our young people took part in last year’s Make Your Mark ballot, 7,000 young people voted on issues that matter most to them. This was the highest turnout in the South East and the second highest in the country. Remarkably turnout was higher than when Slough went to the polls at the 2015 general election.

For too long young people have been been maligned for not being engaged with the world around them, yet paradoxically are denied the chance to get engaged. The stereotypes surrounding our young people are not only offensive but patently not true.

Our young people will feel the effects of the changes we make to this town long after we are gone, so it is only right they are empowered to have their say, to make their mark. This administration has long been a champion of helping our young people to find their civic voice, and most importantly making sure its heard.

Back in 2015 we voted to support the extension of the franchise to all 16 and 17 year olds, while the majority of the council approved this our opposition did not. Today we continue to endorse Slough Youth Parliaments’ campaign to extend the franchise

Why do we support this? Research shows that if people vote once they are much more likely to carry on voting. So it has a clear benefit to our democracy.

Imagine how campaigns and politics would change if us politicians had to visit schools!

It was only a few days ago I came across some research which showed at the 2010 general election there was a 32 point difference in turnout between the over-65s and the under-24s. This difference widens when you start looking at incomes- just 1/3 of under-35s earning £10,000 or less voted, while 80% of over-55s earning £40,000 or more voted.

Statistics like these go some way to explaining how inequality entrenches itself into society – politicians go where the votes are and the money follows. Those without a vote are left voiceless.

Do we really believe that had young people been given a voice through the ability to vote that the government would have trebled tuition fees, scrapped EMA or cut cheap travel?

The Council is committed to giving young people at seat at the table, an actual space to share their views and opinions but most importantly have them listened to.

This year we have placed a young person on our Education and Children’s Scrutiny Panel so councillors can directly hear the experiences of our young people and how the decisions we make impact upon their lives

As we move forward we will continue to champion our young people actively participating in the democratic process and driving change across our town. Together we can build a bright future for our town, and I will ensure their voice is heard.

Thanks for reading and get in touch,

Sohail

@sloughleader

Sohail.munawar@slough.gov.uk