Young people aged 16 and 17 can get married or register a civil partnership with consent. They can drive a moped, can consent to sexual activity with others aged 16 and over and can drink alcohol with a meal if accompanied by someone over 18.
They can live on their own, join the army and work up to 40 hours a week. But they cannot vote in political elections.
Votes at 16
At last week’s full council meeting (catch up here), members voted in favour of a motion seeking to support votes for 16 and 17 year old Islanders.
The motion (see details of the amendment, which was accepted) had been put forward by Labour councillor, Geoff Brodie after being approached by former Deputy Youth MP, Will Matthews, about getting support for this campaign.
Giving hope to the aspirations of young people
Cllr Brodie explained that he’d been approached by many young people in favour of the voting age being lowered to 16 year olds.
He went on to say that those who work (16-17 year olds) are taxable and there should be no taxation without representation, adding that if the motion were passed it would give some hope to the aspirations of young people on the Isle of Wight.
Lilley: Support needed for the young
The motion was seconded by Cllr Michael Lilley (Green).
Adding an Island perspective to the national campaign to lower the voting age, Cllr Lilley pointed to the increasing older population – something supported by the average age of those in the council chamber – adding his view that the Island needs to robustly tackle the issue, otherwise there’ll be no one to “pay taxes or look after us when we’re older”.
Garratt: Young people capable of making decisions
Cllr Andrew Garratt (LibDem) pointed out that next year sees the 50th anniversary of the voting age being reduced from from 21 to 18.
He added that there’s nothing about today’s 16 and 17 year olds that suggest they are in no way able to make decisions.
Fuller: “Not happy”
Cllr Paul Fuller told members that he wasn’t happy with Cllr Hutchinson’s amendment, adding that it watered down the motion too much.
He said that he’d been lobbied by a lot of 16 and 17 year olds about the issue, who called for his support for getting the right to vote.
Cllr Fuller said he was surprised that Cllr Brodie had accepted the amendment.
“I want us, as a council, to support our 16 and 17 year olds for being able to cast a vote in elections. It’s no problem in Scotland.
“I think we are very much short-changing our 16 and 17 year olds by supporting it.”
Abraham: Doesn’t mean they’ll “vote for you”
Cllr Barry Abraham (Con) said,
“When you actually see some of the things that are done by 16 and 17 year olds, as reported in the press – local and national – it says that names haven’t been given for legal reasons.
“16 and 17 year olds, if they are given the right to vote, do they then assume the role of an adult?”
He added that councillors should not assume that giving young people the vote “will mean they will vote for you”.
Outlaw: “Political grandstanding”
Cllr Tig Outlaw (Con) said that he recognised many 16 and 17 year olds are knowledgeable and passionate about the world they live in. However, he shared concerns about the motion, saying,
“Since joining the council in May, I’ve seen motions brought before the council that have no real bearing on the operation of the Isle of Wight council and only seem to seek to make political statements that serve to gain some air in the local press.
“Even if felt that votes at 16 had some merit, this motion still simply is for me, political grand-standing and for that reason, I will voting against the amended motion.”
Hutchinson: Putting the decision with Parliament
Cllr Stuart Hutchinson (Con) explained his amendment “puts the decision where it should probably lie, which is that it should be considered by Parliament, and they will make the choice”.
He went on to explain that out of 190 countries in the World, nine have a voting age of 16.
Andre: Decisions made today affect young people’s future
Cllr Debbie Andre (Ind) argued that those 16 and 17 year olds that are not politically aware probably won’t vote, just in the same way as many over 18s who don’t either.
She went on to remind members that the decisions made today affect the youth’s future.
Love: “Positive message” about inclusion
Cllr Karl Love (Ind) explained that he was a youth and community officer on the Island for around five years. He told members that this vote was about sending a positive message to the Island’s young people and hope for the future.
With cuts to youth budgets, he believed this would send a really positive message to some (not all) young people about their inclusion.
Love: Involve youth councillors
Cllr Love went on to say that he’d like the IWC to go a step further and not have the youth councillor just sitting at the back of the chamber simply observing, but to have youth council members sitting at the table, being involved in decision making.
Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox, explained that since taking up her position as Chairman of the Isle of Wight council, she was responsible for youth council members being able to sit inside the chamber during meetings.
Whittle: “Let children be children”
Cllr Wayne Whittle (Con) explained that he has worked since he was 15 and worked hard all his life to give his children their childhood.
“I’ll tell you, this is a very fast world today and a very fast-changing world, and you know to be a child is a luxury because we can sit here and debate and use children for our own political beliefs, but they should be allowed to remain children. We shouldn’t put pressure on children, that’s what I believe.”
Axford: Youngsters “haven’t suffered the hard knocks of life”
Cllr Adrian Axford (Con) said youngsters were full of ideas and enthusiasm, but they don’t have the experience and they haven’t suffered the hard knocks of life.
“Many times it has been said about no tax without representation, well if you’re talking about income tax don’t forget that everybody has a tax free allowance of over £10,000, so I would be very surprised is there are any youngsters who are earning that much. OK, they are paying VAT on their crisps and cola.
“I asked my grandson who has just turned 16 about this and he replied that it would be OK for local elections, but I don’t know enough for national election.”
Members voted 32 in favour, three against (Cllrs Outlaw, Axford and one other Conservative) and one abstention (we missed who voted against and abstained, so if anyone is able to fill in the gaps please comment below).
Now time to lobby MP
Following the vote, Will told OnTheWight,
“I am thrilled that the Isle of Wight Council has chosen to support Island Labour’s Votes at 16 motion – thanks must go to Cllr Geoff Brodie for proposing, and all that voted in favour.
“We now call on the Isle of Wight Council to lobby our MP, demanding he put our voice across in Parliament.”
Deputy leader, Cllr Hutchinson proposed the following amendment to the motion, which was accepted by Cllr Brodie.
The original motion read:
This Council notes;
- That currently 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are denied the vote in public elections in the UK.
- That the campaign to lower the voting age is supported by thousands of young people across the UK and that the ‘Votes at 16 Coalition’ consists of a wide range of youth and democracy organisations.
This Council believes;
- 16 and 17 year olds are knowledgeable and passionate about the world in which they live and are as capable of engaging in the democratic system as any other citizen;
- Lowering the voting age to 16, combined with strong citizenship education, would empower young people to better engage in society and influence decisions that will define their future;
- People who can consent to medical treatment, work full-time, pay taxes, get married or enter a civil partnership and join the armed forces should also have the right to vote.
This Council resolves;
- To support the Votes at 16 Coalition;
- To write to the Island’s MP to inform him of this decision and ask him to support the campaign
Under ‘This Council believes’ the amended motion included
4. That there are a range of issues surrounding voting in the UK including the fact that 7.5 million citizens entitled to vote have not registered to do so, that there are inequalities in registration and turnout among several demographic groups and accepts that as recommended by the cross party Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform a review of voting processes and procedures should be fully considered by parliament, including the possibility of reducing the voting age.
Item 1 in ‘This Council resolves;” was substituted for:
“1. This Council resolves to support consideration by parliament of reducing the voting age.”