Thursday 25 July 2024
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Nottingham

Meet the young Nottinghamshire councillors supporting communities

Being a councillor isn’t the easiest job when you’re in your twenties – and some more youthful local politicians in Nottinghamshire even say other young people just think they’re ‘weird’.

However, three people currently serving on Nottinghamshire councils who were all under 25 when they were elected have urged others their age to get involved.

Figures show council chambers across the country are currently dominated by older members.

The average age of English councillors in 2022 was 60 years old, according to a census by the Local Government Association – and just 16 per cent were under 45.

Some Nottinghamshire councillors, who were elected in their teens or twenties, have faced question about their age from constituents, and sometimes struggle to balance their duties with other commitments.

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But all said the participation of young people was vital for local democracy, and regional politics shouldn’t be a ‘retirement hobby’.

Councillor Will Mee (Lab) was the youngest Nottinghamshire councillor to win in last May’s elections after he won a Broxtowe Borough Council seat  at the age of 19.

The politics student, who said he was initially only put forward as a ‘paper candidate’ – without much expectation he would win – said: “I’ve had the age card thrown at me a few times, and some people will say you’re just a kid.

“You still get residents who are surprised, but most know me now so it’s less of a shock.

“However, I have a friend my age who is a councillor in York – she gets a lot of stick about being young as a woman.

“Councils are full of older people – it needs younger ones too to bring their perspective. Public transport is one area they tend to not appreciate as many people starting out don’t drive.

“Politics can be hard to commit to full-time when you’re young, both time and money-wise, but it shouldn’t just be a retirement hobby.”

Councillor Georgia Power has been a Labour party member since she was 16 and won a by-election for Nottingham City Council at the age of 25 in 2017.

“Standing as a councillor wasn’t something I’d ever considered, but I felt like young people didn’t have a voice where I grew up in Huddersfield,” she said.

“I was the youngest person ever elected in the Bestwood and Top Valley ward, and I haven’t looked back.

“Most people don’t care about your age as long as you do a good job.

“I did get some comments as a young woman – one person asked me what would happen if I had a baby. My fellow ward councillors who were male wouldn’t have had that response.”

She is now chair of the city’s Health and Adult Social Care Committee and pushed back against the idea that young people can’t take leadership roles.

“We hear that older councillors are more capable because they have more life experience, but what does that even mean?” she said.

“I am more effective having been on the council for seven years than a 50-year-old who has only just been elected.”

Councillor Callum Bailey (Con) was elected to the Worksop North seat on Nottinghamshire County Council six days before his 23rd birthday in 2021.

He also found time commitment to be one of the biggest challenges for younger members.

“People my age are often focusing on getting on the career ladder – it’s tough to balance that. You have to find the time because you value what you’re doing,” he said.

“You see your friends going out while you’re sat in a parish council meeting.

“Sometimes you can be in the pub on a Friday night and get a call from a resident which you have to deal with straight away. Other young people can think it’s weird.”

All three councillors were adamant that more young people should enter politics.

Cllr Will Mee said: “Just do it if you’re thinking about it – it’s absolutely rewarding. You quickly get a thick skin.”

There are other options besides party politics, Cllr Callum Bailey said – “You can get a feel at your town or parish council, which can be a couple of hours a month.”

Cllr Georgia Power added: “The council should look like the city, with all ages, religions and sexuality represented.

“Young people need to see themselves reflected there.”

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