Plans for more young mayors unveiled

Published 11 March 2009

The world of politics is to be opened up to young people as new opportunities to become a young mayor with a real mandate and a real budget are announced today by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

The elected Mayors represent youngsters aged between 11 and 18 years old, giving them a voice to influence decisions made by their local council. They also have a budget to spend on initiatives which will benefit young people in their area.

Ms Blears wants more young people to have a stake in their communities and believes creating more young mayors is a way of giving young people a greater say over their area as well as giving them experience of voting and decision-making.

She is announcing £2million funding support to encourage at least 20 new young mayors around the country who will have a power to influence council policies that matter to young people: from increasing community cohesion to safe streets, to the provisions of youth centres, gyms and open spaces.

There are now 12 young mayors across the country. Together they have captured the imagination of young people with their elections attracting over 100,000 young people across the country. In Lewisham, voter turnout for the election of the young mayor was nearly 50per cent - compared to 43 per cent turnout in Lewisham and Greenwich for the election for the London mayor.

And evidence shows they are making a real difference.

  • the first young mayor of Lewisham raised £12,500 funding which was match-funded enabling him to spend £37,000 in total across a number of projects including initiating workshops for 800 young people looking at how they could keep safe when out and about. This was in direct response to concerns raised by young people;
  • the young mayor of Lewisham has also worked with local health groups on a project looking at teenage pregnancy and sexual health issues;
  • in Tower Hamlets the young mayor successfully applied for funding to develop local youth centres particularly focusing on improving their accessibility;
  • successive young mayors in Newham are helping shape the Olympic legacy. In particular they have been involved in the design and accessibility to young people of the Aquatics Centre and leisure pool; and
  • the Young Mayor in Newham organised and hosted a citizenship ceremony to celebrate and welcome British citizens as part of Local Democracy week. The week focused on encouraging more young people to get involved in the democratic process.

Hazel Blears said:

"Young mayors are a way of giving real power to young people. Not only can they inspire a new generation to see politics as a powerful way of getting your voice heard but they also give young people the means to have a genuine influence over the neighbourhoods where they live.

"Giving people opportunities to have their say and get involved leads to stronger local democracy and, crucially, better local services. This means engaging with everyone in the community from young and old alike.

"Young people can make a huge contribution to their communities but all too often their voices are unheard and they feel alienated and excluded. Young mayors are a means of changing that."

Supporting the extension of young mayors is part of a package of measures the Government is introducing to give citizens a bigger say in local services. This includes:

  • giving local people a greater say in how budgets are spent and encouraging more local people and entrepreneurs to take control over disused council buildings;
  • giving new rights for the public to demand action from their councils. Councils will be subject to a new duty to respond to petitions and providing greater redress for citizens when services go wrong;
  • making politics and local services relevant and open to young people by developing programmes for young people to shadow government ministers and undertake internships with local councillors. A panel of young advisers have also been set up to give a young person's perspective on government decisions that affect them.

Welcoming today's announcement Beverley Hughes, Minister for Young People, said:

"The Young Mayor's scheme will extend even further the opportunities already opening up for young people to have more say and influence locally over services and what's available for them. We are already working hard to ensure young people have more control in the design, commissioning and delivery of local services.

"More than 1.5 million young people have benefited from the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Youth Capital Fund and have proved themselves very effective decision-makers and grant applicants. We want to celebrate young people's achievements, give them the biggest say in the services that affect them, and give them genuine opportunities to be role models in their communities."

Notes to editors

1. Details on how councils can apply and more detail about the fund will be announced shortly.

2. Young Mayors are currently in Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Lambeth, Worthing, Seaford, Mansfield, Melton, Wyre Forest, North East Lincolnshire, Southend and Broxtowe. From 2009 there will also be a young Mayor in North Tyneside.


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