Politically Speaking Column in Wakefield Express

Politicians are definitely getting younger. And the elected members of Rooks Nest school council in Outwood could rival journalists when it comes to direct questioning. During my visit the questions came thick and fast. What do I do to protect the environment? Do I get nervous before I go on the telly? Am I married? But it was young Nicholas who really stumped me; how I do my hair so I can copy your style? I can safely say, I’ve never been asked that before.

Elections to the school council now take place in most primary schools. And what a great way to learn about democracy by actually doing it yourself. Some school council’s have their own budgets to spend, some have regular meetings with the headteacher or school governors. But regardless of their specific role, they’re all a great form of democracy and show that you’re never too young to get stuck in.

The next generation of politicians came to lobby me this week too. Members of the Youth Parliament are elected by young people to represent each local area. The local members of UK Youth Parliament were in Westminster to lobby Parliament against cuts being made to youth service funding. Deep cuts to services together with rising unemployment among young people, increases to tuition fees and the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance have created a toxic cocktail for young people. In these difficult economic times, the Government should be doing more to support our young people and yet they’re doing less.

The Voluntary Sector have also been going through tough times. At the Annual General Meeting of Voluntary Action Wakefield I heard case after case of great local charities, doing great work to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, but struggling as funding disappears. I’ve long argued that the voluntary sector is vital to our economy, locally and nationally. Charities are great at providing preventative services which can prevent problems becoming acute and save money in the long run. They are often really innovative because they can try new things on a small scale. And they provide loads of specialist services that make a massive difference to people having a tough time. If your child has a disability; the specialist charities can be an essential part of your life. If your relative has an ongoing medical condition, support groups might be your only lifeline. But government cuts, going too far and too fast are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable I really hope that when the economy finally turns the corner there’ll still be enough charities still around to kick-start our recovery.

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Posted October 28th, 2011 by Ed

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