Lancashire's young people to get more of a say in county council decisions

Should young people hold more sway over how Lancashire County Council develops its policies?Should young people hold more sway over how Lancashire County Council develops its policies?
Should young people hold more sway over how Lancashire County Council develops its policies?
Children and young people can expect to have a bigger say in decisions taken by Lancashire County Council, after the authority's cabinet agreed to devise a new youth policy.

The main priority of the embryonic plan is to put the county's youngsters "at the heart of policy-making and support them to influence decision-making".

According to cabinet papers, that should translate into young people not only being consulted on issues that affect them directly, but also being enabled to help deliver the county's vision to be the "best place to live, work, visit and prosper".

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Cabinet member for children, young people and schools, Phillippa Willaimson, said that the role of the county's under 19s - who make up almost a quarter of the Lancashire population - was "critical".

"We know that the last few months have been particularly challenging for [them].

"There are many sources which highlight the views of young people in Lancashire - schools, colleges, universities, community groups and members of the youth parliament.

"However, to genuinely realise the potential of young people to shape and deliver our vision, we have to do much more - we're determined to listen and...give them opportunities to develop their own skills," Cllr Williamson added.

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The youth policy will now be developed in collaboration with other relevant organisations - with a focus on improving the environment in which young people live, learn and work and helping them to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Cabinet members were told that the authority wants to better engage with young people and - based on feedback already received - communicate "in ways that work for them".

Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali called for the county council to discuss with interested community groups how some of the 19 facilities which closed last year having previously been used to deliver its children and family wellbeing service might be repurposed.

County Cllr Williamson said that she was "open to discussing all sensible opportunities for enabling social interaction and developing and supporting and young people".


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County Cllr Ali also said that it would send a "really strong message to young people in Preston" if County Hall recommitted to the creation of a youth zone in the city.

The long-mooted project looked to have reached the end of the road last year after a search for a new site for the facility ended in failure. That came 12 months after a gulf opened up between the authority and the group which had been developing the project for nearly a decade - and £6m of council cash was taken off the table.

However, county council leader Geoff Driver said that the previous Conservative administration had cleared a suitable site at Bow Lane before losing office in 2013 - and had left the funds available to make the project reality.

County Cllr Ali claimed that other organisations involved in the project had wanted a more central location which would be "safer and [where] transport would be easier" - which is why Labour later drew up plans to relocate the youth zone to the city's redeveloped bus station.

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He called on the Conservative group to admit that it had made the wrong decision by abandoning the plan after retaking office in 2017.

However, County Cllr Driver said that the relocated project was "an ego trip by the incoming Labour administration that caused the problem [by] trying to mask the huge cost of renovating Preston bus station".

He added that a competition which had been staged for architects to design a "super-duper" facility resulted in the creation of a plan that went far beyond "the standard youth zone" - and one for which no resources were available to bring it to fruition.

Last month, it emerged that Preston City Council had included a proposal for a youth zone in its bid for a share of the government's Towns Fund for urban regeneration projects.

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