Re-establishing a Sutton Youth Parliament is very important for young people in the borough, Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn has claimed.
The 28-year-old Conservative, who was involved in Sutton Youth Parliament as a teenager in the late 2000s, has held several meetings with Sutton Council and the British Youth Council to push for stronger youth representation in Sutton after the initiative stopped in recent years.
Sutton Council reaffirmed its commitment to engaging young people in politics at the latest meeting held on Tuesday, and Colburn is hopeful a plan can be put in place before the new school year starts in September.
He said: “I would love to see the Youth Parliament come back, it’s a shame we don’t have one because I think having one is very important.
“It’s really important for Sutton’s future that young people get involved in local decision making. Sutton is not an old borough, it’s not a retirement destination. It’s a young and vibrant borough with some of the best schools in the country, and it’s absolutely essential for us to create good policy that young people make their voices heard.
“Politics affects all of our lives in some shape or form, even if it doesn’t always feel that way, so it’s really important that young people step forward and have a say. It’s the only way that they can know their elected representatives are hearing their concerns and the only way you can then hold them to account on if they act on those concerns.”
There are two types of Youth Parliament model: a national model and a local model.
At a local level, neighbouring borough Merton has its own Youth Parliament where teenagers in the borough meet weekly to discuss the issues that matter to them in the borough and put suggestions to the council.
However, there is also a national model, run by the British Youth Council, where councils can set up elections for a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) to discuss issues affecting young people across the UK.
As well as being important for the future of Sutton and ensuring young people’s voices are heard, Colburn reflected on his own experiences and argued that the Parliament would equip young people with vital life skills, as well as setting them up for a life in politics.
He said: “I found it very useful to get young people engaged in politics because you’re talking about issues that they are actually concerned about, which is one of the big issues with national politics.
“So it’s a really good vehicle for getting young people interested in politics because it demonstrates how politics actually affects their lives.
“More than that, it helps equip people with lots of transferrable life skills. It really boosted my confidence and I thrived through doing it, so it’s such a good opportunity for young people.
“I was 18 when I stood for elected office for the first time. I put a lot of the fact that I ran for office as soon as I could down to the fact that I did the Youth Parliament.”
The details of location, funding and other administrative factors as to how the revived Parliament will look are still being discussed behind closed doors, but Sutton Council is in conversation with the British Youth Council to make it happen.
Colburn, who got involved after being contacted by multiple young people in the borough keen to hear their views represented, has been checking in on progress, and is looking forward to seeing the results.
He has also encouraged any young people interested in representing Sutton to contact him and you can do so by clicking here.