Monday, 8 November 2010

Young people take over County Hall (and why Andrew Wallis is wrong)

Today County Hall was taken over by groups of young people from across Cornwall. They were invited by the Chairman of the Council to come and discuss issues that affect them.

Groups ranged from primary school pupils through secondary to groups of carers and volunteers. In total there were nine presentations on different subjects. In the audience were Cornwall Councillors (although not as many as I would have hoped), and representatives from organisations that work with young people.

Perhaps the stand out presentation was from young carers. There were some very moving life stories told and it really rammed home just how much some people have to fit into their lives, combining caring responsibilities with school and social life. It's difficult enough when you are a parent, but must be very tough indeed when you are a 12 year old caring for a parent with dementia and alcohol problems.

One of the groups that came along were the school council from Launceston College. After the event I had a great session with them asking what changes they wanted to see in our town. The top three issues that they mentioned were:

  • transport - trying to get into town to take part in activities or to see friends and back home again
  • things to do - the skatepark is great for those who skate but people wanted more activities
  • more shops - we talked about the empty shops and what stores they would like to see come to town

I've promised to do what I can on each of these issues and, of course, with Sasha and Adam I will happily work on any issues where people want to see action.

Today's event would not have been possible without the assistance of Council Chairman Pat Harvey. She hosted the event and provided lunch for the participants - something she does for tens of meetings and events each year. Pat also represents the civic face of the Council, at hundreds of events each year. In straightened financial times we all have to look to make savings and the Chairman's expenditure is not exempt from this. But I think it is wrong to suggest, as Andrew Wallis has done, that the Chairman's office and role is a waste of money.


Rob's blog said...

I agree that there is great value in involving children in democracy and all credit to Cornwall Council and the Chairperson for doing so.

However I do believe Andrew Wallis was commenting about the cost of the post of Chair not the value. Surely in these days of austerity the costs of this office can be rationalised and reduced with keeping the value of the said office.

iam_gabby said...

I think that it is great that you've done this, I even spot a few friends younger brothers and sisters in there!
I agree with there suggestions 100% but I think you may also benefit from speaking with some of the older students in the town aswell (eg sixth formers), as they may be able to expand more on the points raised.

Alex Folkes said...

Thanks for the comments.

On Andrew Wallis's views, he seemed during the scrutiny meeting last Friday to be arguing for more than a simple cut in the cost of the office, but I am happy to be corrected and apologise if I misinterpreted what he said.

And Gabby is absolutely right - we need to have a proper consultation with all young people else we end up simply meeting the needs of a particular age group rather than the needs of all young people.

I'll be trying to do this through the College but would welcome ideas for how else to get views.

Cllr Andrew Wallis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cllr Andrew Wallis said...

My argument was not on disbanding the office, but the current cost of it.(ie 2x PAs) I do think £84,000 is a lot of money to spend. I have never once said that we need to get rid of the office.

There is value of having the Chairman, but do we need to spend so much when services are being