Pair to bring youth’s viewpoint to council

TWO young, newly-elected councillors have spoken about what they hope to bring to the council and how they aim to get more young people interested in politics.

Sunday, 8th June 2014, 9:00 am
Young councillors Emily Hilditch and James Butcher with Adur leader Neil Parkin and Chairman Mike Mendoza

Emily Hilditch, 22, and James Butcher, 21, who represent Southwick Green and Churchill, are now Adur Council’s youngest members.

Adur leader Neil Parkin, who has been a councillor for longer than either of them have been alive, said: “They will bring a young person’s perspective on things, which I think is great.”

Cllr Parkin said he hoped they would help engage more youngsters, seen as being hard-to-reach.

Councillor Hilditch, who followed her dad into politics, became chairman of Adur Youth Council while at school and joined the Conservative Party at 16.

When asked about her ambitions for the future, she said: “Right now I just want to concentrate on representing the people of Southwick Green to the best of my ability.

“I’m excited to be able to bring a youthful perspective to the council and to increase the diversity of opinion.

“I hope James and I will be able to engage with students at the local schools and young people who live in the area - encouraging them to become more involved and interested in politics.

“Most young people I know hold a lot of opinions and views on political issues; however I don’t think it translates well into an interest in party politics.”

Cllr Hilditch blamed political parties and the media for failing to engage young people with the issues that were important to them.

“I definitely think a lot more could be done to encourage young people to get involved and vote,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to working on a council with such an ‘excellent record’ and that she hoped to learn a lot from her new colleagues.

Cllr Butcher said he would love to stand for parliament one day, but right now he was enjoying local council work and making ‘positive change in the area’.

Speaking about his early forays into politics, he said: “I joined the West Sussex Youth Cabinet and undertook a review project of local libraries’ provision for teenagers which was a great success and that got me hooked on the power of local politics.”

Cllr Butcher said he hoped to bring a young person’s view of both the council and the local area, enthusiasm, and passion for regeneration and forward thinking.

“It’s really important to end the perception that politics is reserved for older people,” he said, adding that he hoped to encourage more young people to ‘step up’ by going out into community to and trying to inspire them.

“That will be a harder challenge, but one I’m willing to try,” he said.

Looking to his more experienced colleagues, Cllr Bucther said he hoped to improve his knowledge of local governance and services, as well as problem solving and debating skills

Outgoing Adur Council chairman Mike Mendoza said: “Its great to see, at long last, young people wanting to be involved in local politics.

“This is the first time in many years that we have managed to attract youngsters such as James and Emily to our council and I look forward to welcoming them now and working with them in the future.”