It’s cliché to say young people are our future, but it’s true. They’ll be here after we’ve gone and the decisions we take today will form their future.
I was proud to propose a motion to council last week, calling upon the Government to lower the voting age to 16. While the motion passed, every Conservative councillor in the room voted to oppose. Given the bizarre remarks of their leader on the subject this was to be expected, but for the young people who had come along to watch the meeting the message was fairly clear.
It should be of no surprise that young people were among the first and hardest hit by the decisions of this Government, it was a group from whom they had nothing to fear.
At 16 you can sign-up to fight for your country, marry with your parents’ permission and get taxed on your income. Yet, while young people can pay for their Government and die on its orders we say they are too young to have any say as to what that Government will be.
Tuition fees trebled, youth mental health services slashed, youth centres closed, Education Maintenance Allowance axed, careers services cut. Would these decisions have been so many and taken so readily had young people had the power to hold their Government to account?
Votes aren’t a luxury; they play an essential role in forcing the Government to consider the needs and wants of every citizen. Without a vote you will always be an easy target. The same thing applies to any group where large numbers regularly choose not to vote. By engaging young people early we have the opportunity to show them that their opinion does matter and the power of making their voice heard.
A Labour Government is committed to introducing votes at 16 and more. Labour will cut top-up fees by a third, introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee and offer an apprenticeship to any school leaver who meets the grades threshold.
Young people are our future, it’s time we gave them a say in what that future looks like.
Cllr Chris Oxlade, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement