As everyone knows about consultation, it’s important to have the full
feedback loop. We can’t expect young people to take IAC seriously, and
get passionate about taking part, if it seems like no-one REALLY takes
any notice. So I asked the councillors from last year to tell me what difference I’m a Councillor had made – I wanted to know what councillors had done about things young people had raised, so that I could tell the young people about it. I also wanted the councillors to tell me if they felt it had improved the relationship between young people and local politicians – had it made them more approachable?
I got a lot of great stories back on both points – from the councillor who’d got a goal put in a local playing field (yep, just one, there was one already, but ONE goal isn’t much use for playing football…) to the councillor told me how his investigation of whether some trees could be replanted uncovered an overlooked £1.8 million extra for the parks budget. And lots of stories of improved relationships with schools, youth groups and local young people.
However, the story that really made me laugh was Cllr Bev Lilley, (who was IAC winner for Mansfield District Council last year and is hopefully pictured, if I’ve done this right, being crowned ‘Youth Champion’ live on air at local radio station Mansfield 103.2). Bev told me how she was driving through Mansfield and spotted some lads messing about and building a ramp in the road. She stopped the car and told them that they couldn’t leave the bricks and planks in the road, it was dangerous (she sounds a bit like my Mum. One day, remind me to tell you the story of my Mum single-handedly stopping a late night fight in a car park using only the power of her teacher-voice…).
Anyway, Bev’s told them, the boys all stop what they are doing and look at her. There’s a pause and the biggest lad, the ringleader, says, ‘Who’s she?!’. One of the other boys, who Bev didn’t recognise, stepped up and said, ‘Oh, she’s from ‘I’m a Councillor’
, she’s alright she is!’, which it seems is the magic right answer and they all helpfully move the debris. Bev says she doesn’t think these lads would have spoken to her before the event. Now if that isn’t making a difference and breaking down barriers, I don’t know what is.