Headlines: February 27th, 2006

Almost three quarters of local authorities in England and Wales are actively involved with schools to increase young people’s awareness of democracy, according to a survey by the Local Government Association released today to coincide with the launch of a Local Democracy Campaign.The launch will see Local Democracy Week expanded into a year round campaign to increase young peoples’ awareness that they have the power to shape their community. It aims, too, to make local authorities more relevant to young people by encouraging them to ‘Take Part Take Power’ and to persuade them to see councils as the route to making changes in the places where they live.

The campaign’s four key aims are to make Local Democracy Week bigger and better, to increase councillors’ involvement in Citizenship teaching in schools, to ensure that young people have the power to make a difference to their community and to get councils to devolve power to local people wherever that is appropriate. Local Democracy Week began in 1997 since when councils across England and Wales have staged more than 2,000 events ranging from ‘Question Time’ sessions through to offering people the chance to be Mayor for a day’. Other ideas have included ‘I’m a Councillor, get me out of Here’ and ‘Political Speed Dating’ More than 300 local authorities took part in last year’s Local Democracy Week.

The survey released by the LGA to coincide with today’s launch reveals that nearly three quarters of councils are already actively involved in working with schools to educate young people about democracy and about local authorities. Sixty per cent of councillors also expressed interest in becoming champions for local democracy and young peoples’ views or reported that their council already had a champion.

LGA Chairman Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said young people were a central part of local communities. “They use 85 per cent of council services, and it is only right that they should have an input in the way they are run. We all recognise that we have to inspire young people to become involved in shaping their local communities. When they do it is of benefit not only to young people, but it also helps the council with new ideas to improve and shape its services,” he said.

The Local Democracy Campaign, Take Part Take Power is sponsored by the LGA with the Association of Citizenship Teachers, the British Youth Council, the Department of Constitutional Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Electoral Commission, the Hansard Society, the Home Office, the National Youth Agency, Operation Black Vote, the UK Youth Parliament and the YMCA.