A call for action to improve youth participation in the political process across West Sussex was made by county councillors last month.
Sandra James, leader of the UKIP group at West Sussex County Council, called on the cabinet member to ‘prioritise and reinforce efforts’ in the area, given young people were less likely to vote in elections.
She pointed to the number of young people nationally who had not registered to vote before the EU referendum and argued they should be making politics ‘stimulating, engaging, and accessible’.
Mrs James (UKIP, Bourne) added: “I think it’s simply unacceptable the cabinet member takes the view the council is doing all we need to do.”
But her notice of motion was defeated by 24 votes to 39 with one abstention at a County Hall meeting in Chichester on Friday October 21.
But Christine Field (Con, Lindfield and High Weald), deputy leader and cabinet member for community wellbeing, explained that she could not accept the motion as it would be criticising the work already done by her and her colleagues. She added: “Young people should be made aware, as much as we can possibly do, of the opportunities that democracy provides them.”
Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt (Con, Chichester North), cabinet member for finance, said low turnouts was a national problem, but schools were already doing excellent work to raise the political awareness of pupils in West Sussex.
Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate and Three Bridges) said: “The big problem is in an increasingly global word we as political actors are far less powerful and effective as we were in the past.”
But he thought they should be looking at ways to marginally improve turnout at elections, with one way to sit students down at an IT lesson, before they leave school or college at 18, and show them how to register to vote.
Peter Evans (Con, East Preston and Ferring) suggested a new electronic voting method might boost young voter turnout.
But for Mike Glennon (UKIP, Lancing) the real ‘elephant in the room’ was the electoral system itself, with many people in safe seat areas believing their votes are ‘wasted’.
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