Back at the end of January, Isle of Wight Youth MP Robert Selby attended another Youth Council meeting. Read on for his view. Ed
I arrived at the Council in Newport just before 5pm on 30th January.
Upon arrival we were told to go down the corridor to a tiny waiting area, apparently Youth Council members are no longer allowed to wait in the main area by reception.
There were only three apologies, so 23 were at the meeting, which was very encouraging.
The main item on the agenda was the Isle of Wight Council Budget for 2013/2014 presentation by Council Leader Cllr David Pugh and Director of Resources David Burbage. There was no doubt that there are heavy cuts that will be introduced by the Council, but Pugh concentrated more on investment.
Mr Burbage just sat there looking rather miserable, he is a numbers man. I questioned them on Council Tax, “If there is a top band for those paying this, surely the Council can raise this amount if necessary, simply because these homeowners can afford it?”
Mr Burbage, replied, “The Council does not control this, it is set by the Government.”
But of course, the Council have frozen Council Tax; simply to improve their chances in the local elections this year.
Cllr Pugh added that, “The Council Tax paid by people who own a second home on the Island will pay 100% of the tax rather than the former 90%.”
Then there was the investment plans, which mainly consisted of £43m to go to education, £3m for the development of superfast broadband and a significant amount towards the development of the Solent Ocean Energy Centre, which plans to provide energy from wave power, this is laying the foundation to attract private investment. It aims to employ 600 people by 2020.
This was all well and good but I immediately started thinking on the severity of the cuts and how they would affect unemployment levels. This is worsened by Island secondary schools making redundancies. In the words of their own Budget Report, they will, “Robustly look for efficiencies and savings in contract, supplies and services,” which will mean great hardship for those affected.
I feel that Cllr Pugh’s comment on the cuts, “that they will cause some pain,” is a great understatement.
Other Youth Council members were more vocal over the issue of transport, Ashton Helyer, Youth Councillor for Sandown Bay asked about ferry prices. Cllr Pugh replied, “They are private companies, but we do hope that there will be more regulation in the future.”
Other members mentioned how it was unfair that a student at Medina who lives in Cowes, for instance, had to pay for their own bus travel, rather than for free.
Use of social media
After a break we then moved onto the matter of using social media (Facebook, Twitter) to promote the Youth Council, this is very important to promote our campaigns and the youth democracy movement in general. I myself have a Twitter page (@isleofwightMYP).
There will be assistance for this from a person who is doing work experience in this area, and a workshop in the latter part of the February half-term.
Voting at 16
Following from this, I addressed the Youth Council about whether or not we would support votes at 16. I had discussed this before the meeting with some members and there was strong support, I firmly believe that 16 year olds should have the right to vote.
It was to be put to a vote, but three or four members opposed it. Oskar Mason, Youth Cllr for Cowes and East Cowes, said that: “16 year olds were not mature enough.”
We decided that there will be a debate on this at the next meeting on the 27th February. I will debate for the issue, Oskar will debate against. I’m sure it will be very exciting.
Josie Recknagel-Fessey brought up the issue of equal marriage for gay couples, this is very important. The bill will go through Parliament soon, so there is a chance that this could be made into law.
There was a vote to decide whether or not the Youth Council should support this. I am very glad to say that out of 23 votes: 20 were for, one was against and two abstained. This was a brilliant result, equal marriage should be made into law because it is a clear fault of our society that we let two men kill each other through war, but not love each other through marriage.
Meeting finished at 7:10pm. It was absolutely riveting, with exciting discussion.