Local Matters: Less than three quarters of young people are registered to vote

22 February 2021

The Government has confirmed that it is pushing ahead with the 2021 local elections. This is an opportunity for people to hold local elected officials to account over the decisions that have been made in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Local elections are important because local government spending goes on education, social services - much of which is spent on elderly care, and the police - as well as council staff. These services have been vitally important in the UK’s response to the Pandemic. Yet voter turnout for local elections is low - on average only 35% of people voted in the 2018 local elections, but it was as low as 24.2% in Hartlepool.

Voter registration is lower amongst young people than other age groupswith less than three quarters of young people being registered to vote compared to 94% of over 65s. That’s why we’re working with sixth forms, colleges and youth groups up and down the country to get young people registered to vote and to give them the tools they need to go and make an informed vote on election day.

In addition, young people are under-represented in local politics. The national census of local authority councillors suggests 45% of councillors are retired; on average they are 59 years old; 43% were aged 65 or over, compared with 18% of the population; and concerningly, only 15% were aged under-45.

Given that the Pandemic has also highlighted inequalities based on race, income and location the lack of diversity of councillors in every other measure is also a concern - 96% described their ethnic background as white, compared with 86% of population and 63% of councillors were male compared with 49% of the population.

To tackle this, I have a voice is partnering with youth organisations and education providers to get young people aged 16-18 registered to vote and clued up about their local candidates ahead of the 2021 local elections. The partnership comprises - I have a voice, British Youth Council, Young Citizens, Smart Schools Council, Beatfreeks and Compassion in Politics, as well as a range of schools and colleges across the country.

Funding means we are able to run information sessions about the local elections with sixth form, colleges and youth groups for free. We’re particularly interested in targeting those areas with the lowest turnout. If you'd like to sign-up to our Local Matters programme contact: rebecca@ihaveavoice.org.uk and 07976971814.

Rebecca Deegan, Founder
I have a voice

Young people are politically engaged, we’ve seen it with the climate strikes and the Black Lives Matter movement. Voting is an important part of political participation, particularly being able to cast an informed vote. But this is not enough, people should know how they can engage with their local councillors on local matters. And so we’re thrilled to have received funding from the UK Democracy Fund to get young people up and down the country voting to make sure their voices are heard in May.”

Sarah Staples, Chair
British Youth Council

"The disparity between young voters and the rest of the electorate is something we've been trying to address for some time. We have to go over and above to not only encourage young people to vote, but to ensure they feel an active part of democracy. Young people's voices must be heard at the ballot box, however, decision makers must also go further and act on their concerns too."

Anisa Morridadi, Founder & CEO
Beatfreeks

"Recent National Youth Trends research from the team here at Beatfreeks has shown that 75% of young people don't feel their voices are being heard by our government. They've made it clear that they aren't seeing their views reflected in the UK's politics, which makes their vote even more vital in building a political system that will listen. During the COVID-19 pandemic we've all been talking about the 'new normal', this is the opportunity to shift the dial on young voices being at the forefront of decision making."

Matt Hawkins, Co-Director Compassion in Politics

"Compassion in Politics is delighted to be working on this vital project. Too often we find that younger generations feel completely alienated from the political system which is meant to serve them. We must change that. By voting, campaigning, and standing for election today's youth can shape the future they will inherit."

Yvonne Richards, Director of Programmes and Learning, Young Citizens

“Our belief is simple: the more people who participate in our democracy, the fairer and more representative it will be. Knowing your rights as a citizen and being aware of the ways you can influence decisions is key to having the confidence to make changes happen in your community. We believe that every young person should be aware of how democracy works and how they can participate in it. Everyone, regardless of background, gender, race or age, should have their say.

Greg Sanderson, Co-FounderSmart Schools Council

"Democracy happens all around you, and it happens every day. We're so happy to be supporting Local Matters because it's helping young to make that link in a local and impactful way, and we can't wait to help by raising awareness among our schools"