There has never been a more important time for young people to have a say in shaping today’s society. Young people today face a variety of challenges – increasing tuition fees, difficulty getting onto the housing ladder and high levels of youth unemployment. But there are also the more universal problems, such as how best to fund and design pensions, social care and the NHS, which may seem like the problems of tomorrow for the younger generations, but will one day represent problems they must face and tackle.
The next Award in our blog series therefore seems of particular importance in today’s context – the Young Councillor Award seeks to celebrate the contributions and achievements of councillors aged under 30. Such an Award seems all the more important when you consider that the average age of a councillor is 59. This highlights the obstacles that younger councillors can face in becoming elected. Many believe that a healthy democracy ought to have political institutions that include people from all walks of life. Whilst not all believe this to be necessary, what is less contentious is that younger councillors can offer fresh and unique perspectives on the issues facing a community.
For instance, the 2012 Award went to Cllr Tafheen Sharif who, in her relatively short time as a member of Luton Borough Council, showed an energy and dynamism on a number of local education issues. Cllr Sharif not only acted as a governor to two schools, but she visited every local school in the area to engage with pupils and identify what was and what wasn’t working. Her interactive approach has allowed her to identify and fix a number of on-going problems, such as securing funding for repairs to a school gate, and initiating a number of meetings with officers and contractors to resolve a dispute over roof works at a local primary school.
Cllr Sharif also worked hard to promote community safety. With key partners, she devised a plan to deter gangs from her local area; she organised a picnic in a local park to deter drug dealers and allow residents to claim it back; and, on a larger scale, Cllr Sharif also attended meetings with the Chief Superintendent and Chief Executive of Luton to help form the strategy that successfully prevented any rioting in Luton in the summer of 2011. Her energy and fresh approaches were crucial in making a positive change to the community.
So if you know a young councillor who deserves recognition for their efforts, we want to hear from you! The winner of the Young Councillor of the Year Award will:
- be a councillor who was 30 or under when last elected
- demonstrate a commitment to working for the community.
Anyone can nominate a councillor they think deserves recognition. All you need to do is fill in one of our nomination forms.