Young people from schools across Epping Forest district are set to debate lowering the voting age to 16. 80 young people packed the debating chamber at the district council for the Epping Forest Youth Council organised Youth Conference 2013 #efyconf13.
Proceedings were opened by Youth Councillor Natasha Miller and District Council Chairman Councillor Mary Sartin before the morning session got into full swing with Q&As to a panel of councillors and senior council managers.
Why don’t younger people vote? Senior Democratic Services Officer Simon Hill makes his point graphically. Older people are far more likely to vote than younger generations. He asks - how do you feel about older people making decisions for you?
Delegates took a break before splitting into smaller focus groups to discuss the priorities for the Youth Council next year.
Schools taking part include Davenant, Chigwell Public, West Hatch, Braeside, St John’s, Roding Valley and Woodford County.
Each focus group prepares a set of top-topics for debate back in the council chamber. The groups start with a question ‘What are the issues and experiences of living in the Epping Forest District?’ After a feedback session to the whole conference, delegates use electronic voting to establish the Youth Council’s top 3 priorities for the coming year, which are
- Substance misuse
Living in a beautiful area is a definite plus along with easy access to London but public transport and fear of crime are some of the other problems identified by delegates. Bus services come in for a lot of criticism. Delegates put forward potential solutions including better education, more trust in young people, combating negative media stereotypes and giving young people more constructive opportunities through activities and volunteering.
“Countries as diverse as Austria, Argentina and now Scotland have given the vote to 16 year olds” says Youth Councillor Evie Dolan at the start of chairing the debate on lowering the voting age. Youth Councillor Jaymey McIvor proposes the motion. Youth Councillor Edward Gokmen opposes. The motion is carried. 55% vote in favour of lowering the voting age to 16.
Youth Councillors felt the conference was a great success with some unexpected outcomes. Youth Councillor Victoria Armitage felt the day had brought better connections between young people. Natasha Miller added that the issues of school group rivalries needed to be addressed. Youth Councillor Ella Foster said: “It was really good and some key issues came out such as speed limits, discrimination against young people and the way adults see us. It was a great insight for the Youth Councillors about the issues facing young people now.
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Follow the day on Twitter using hashtag #efyconf13.