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LOCAL DEMOCRACY WEEK: THE LAUNCH - GETTING IN THE YOUTH VOTE

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A week of exciting and thought-provoking events aimed at re-engaging young ...
A week of exciting and thought-provoking events aimed at re-engaging young

people in their communities will kick off next week with the launch of Local

Democracy Week 2003, led by the Local Government Association.

Hundreds of councils across the country are planning events from 13-19

October to promote this year's campaign, titled 'Listening to tomorrow's

voters today'.

Aimed at encouraging young people to get more involved in local democracy

and the local decision-making that drives and shapes their communities,

the campaign also invites councils and councillors to work with young people

to build a better understanding of what they do and why it's relevant to them

- and everyone else.

Highlights of the week include a reality-TV style contest - 'I'm a

councillor get me out of here!' - in which young people will vote for the

local politician who best represents their views and who will then be

elected as 'youth champion', acting as a point of contact and a

representative for young people within the council. There will also be a

debate at the House of Commons involving 100 young people, MPs and other

keynote speakers; a radio phone-in with BBC chief Greg Dyke; the elections

of youth councillors and UK youth parliament members; and to conclude the

week a national conference examining how young people can get involved

with local politics, which will be addressed by the new children's minister,

Margaret Hodge, who will be making her maiden speech.

Laura Willoughby, chair of the LGA's equalities executive, said: `I am

delighted that so many hundreds of councils, partners, national politicians

and other leading figures have committed themselves to promoting Local

Democracy Week. This campaign is a really exciting opportunity to get the

message out loud and clear to young people from all walks of life that

your opinions matter and we want to hear from you.

`Initiatives like Local Democracy Week cannot come to o soon. We all know

general interest in politics is waning but turnout for local elections is

especially poor - particularly amongst young people. I do not believe that

means they don't care about their local community or have anything to

contribute.

`As with many people in the UK today, young people don't really know what

local councils actually do or why it's important and, crucially, nor do they

feel anyone is interested in their opinions. That's not true. But we don't

just need to tell them - we need to show them.

`Local Democracy Week is not only a vital publicity campaign, it is a

wake-up call to all of us in local politics and policy making. These young

people are the voters of tomorrow - our future, and we must give them the

opportunity to voice their opinions and help make them count.

'This week it is expected that the LGA executive will ratify the LGA's

equalities executive decision to make voting at 16 LGA policy. I personally

hope that will be successful, as not only does it happily coincide with

Local Democracy Week but will also send a clear message to our young people

that we want to hear their voice.'

NOTES:

1) Every year the LGA designates a ' Local Democra cy Week' to encourage

councils to promote the work they do for, and with their local communities,

encouraging better understanding of local government, democracy and the need

for more public involvement.

2) Local Democracy Week partner organisations include the National Youth

Agency, the UK Youth Parliament, the British Youth Council, YMCA, the

Electoral Commission, the government's Children and Young People's Unit and

the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs.

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