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: firstname.lastname@example.org and 07976971814.