TEENAGERS in Kirklees have celebrated democracy.
Kirklees Youth Council met to mark European Youth Week.
The youth council, formed in October 2008, is made up of 32 young people aged between 13 and 19.
Full meetings are held every six to eight weeks and last Friday’s meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall was attended by David Clarke, deputy chief executive and head of policy at the British Youth Council.
Mr Clarke, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services Clr Cath Harris and director of children’s services Alison O’Sullivan formed a panel to answer questions from the youth council and guests.
One of the key questions posed was about council cuts.
Former youth councillor James Merewood asked Clr Harris: “If young people can’t vote how can we make sure we don’t take the brunt of cuts?”
Clr Harris replied that it was her job and that of Clr Peter O’Neill, jointly responsible for children’s services, to ensure that didn’t happen.
Youth councillors in Kirklees are elected for a two-year term and there are elections every six months.
In between full meetings there are fortnightly meetings where the youth councillors work on projects. They are currently working on employment and skills.
Unlike a school council, the youth council aims to tackle issues faced by young people in the wider community and give them the opportunity to challenge decision makers and put their views across.
With ad hoc meetings and project work youth councillors can spend in excess of 100 hours a year on council business.
Council support officer Michelle Ross said: “It’s a huge commitment and while a term lasts for two years many of our councillors have served for four years or more.
“That adds up to hundreds of hours and that’s all voluntary.”
Cameron Whittingham, 19, who jointly chaired the meeting with Khizar Akbar, said he was proud to be a youth councillor.
“It’s all about developing more opportunities and giving young people a voice,” he said.
Cameron, who represents Huddersfield South, spends up to 20 hours a month on council business and added: “It’s really boosted my confidence.
“Before the youth council I would never have spoken in public.”