A toolkit for local authorities
Current Affairs Committee
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Young people were taken to different parts of the borough they didn’t know to interview others so they could get a deeper understanding of the competing priorities. Special mention should be made of one of Lewisham’s most important innovations in governance and participation: the Young Mayor. Many local authorities have adopted the idea of youth parliaments but these can often appear tokenistic. On the other hand the Lewisham Young Mayor seems a much more robust attempt to put real power and responsibility in the hands of young people and treat them seriously. The Young Mayor is elected by direct ballot every year and – along with a cabinet of young advisors – is given a budget (£30,000 per annum) to initiate a programme of work, as well as to scrutinise the work of Sir Steve Bullock and the Council. Having met several past and current young mayors and advisors they demonstrate a high level of self-confidence and understanding. They have travelled extensively around Britain and the rest of Europe and this has helped them to appreciate what has been achieved in Lewisham. They have encountered few other places where young people’s participation in the democratic process is taken so seriously. Also they have noted how much more diverse Lewisham is and, importantly, how much more comfortable it seems with its diversity, than most other places. They concur that whilst Lewisham may not be the most comfortable of places to live, and that it can at times be quite threatening particularly for young people, few of the district’s problems are attributable to ethnic divisions. Even the gangs are multi-ethnic, we were told.