A YOUTH PARISH OR TOWN COUNCIL?
A Youth Parish or Town Council is a locally based group of young people who meet regularly as a mirror image of their Parish or Town Council. They discuss ideas and utilise any budget allocated to them within a specific area of responsibility of their Parish Council. In addition, they can identify the needs of local young people and can act as a voice for them. Youth Parish and Town Councils are not a new idea but they do provide an excellent and effective way of contacting local young people.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A YOUTH PARISH OR TOWN COUNCIL?
Youth Parish and Town Councils can ensure that the voice of local young people is heard when community matters are being considered. Youth Parish and Town Councils can provide the mechanisms for bringing issues which are of concern to local young people to the attention of the local decision makers, perhaps through organising debates and seminars. The needs and wishes of the local young people might also be established by means of a questionnaire which would be more effective when formulated and collated by the young people themselves. Through sending representatives of the Youth Parish or Town Council to meetings of their Parish or Town Council, young people can become more aware of the wider issues affecting the whole of their community.
HOW ARE THEY ORGANISED?
Like their parent Parish or Town Council, youth parish or town councillors should be nominated and elected (by the local young people); the elected members of the Council then choose their own chairman. A schedule of meetings should be established and, as in the parent Parish or Town Council, committees or working groups should be set up to tackle specific issues. Agendas should be issued before meetings and minutes taken. Minutes should subsequently be circulated.
DO THEY NEED A BUDGET?
While a Youth Parish or Town Council can be a purely advisory body, experience over the years has shown that those which are given responsibility for both their own budget and for managing a specific budget on behalf of their parent Parish or Town Council are more successful than those which have not been given budgetary responsibility.
WHY DO THEY NEED TO BE ORGANISED SO FORMALLY?
First, having to go through a formal nomination and election process helps young people understand the electoral system and provides a practical link with citizenship programmes in schools and colleges. Being an active member of a Youth Parish or Town Council is useful preparation for a future role as an active good citizen.
Secondly, the formal structure of a Youth Parish or Town Council shows how it is necessary to prepare a convincing case and to put forward reasoned arguments for a proposal to be adopted. The traditional, formalised committee structure ensures that meetings reach some positive and constructive conclusions and that everyone is given the opportunity to put their case.
WHAT DO THEY NEED TO BE EFFECTIVE?
Most importantly, a Youth Parish or Town Council needs the active support of its parent Parish or Town Council including, ideally, the commitment to give them responsibility for a budget. They also need:
- A high profile within their local community.
- An appropriate structure.
- Access to premises, money and resources.
- To have their enthusiasm utilised.
ARE THERE ANY PARISH OR TOWN YOUTH PARISH COUNCILS IN DORSET?
Yes! There are several Youth Parish Councils and at least two Youth Town Councils.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
For more information about Youth Parish or Town Councils please contact DAPTC on: 01305 260972 or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dorset Youth handbook is available here together with Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leaders which is available here. In addition, the Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils has produced "The Totally Excellent Youth Council Handbook" which details the setting up and running of a Youth Parish or Town Council. The handbook is available through DAPTC, or direct from the Hampshire Association at http://www.haptc.org/
Acknowledgement: DAPTC is grateful to the Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils for their permission to use material prepared by them in the production of this web page.