|Missed photo session due to student duties|
It was interesting to read that Tameside had elected its youngest councillor during last week’s local elections and hearing how delighted young Oliver Ryan, 19, was to have been chosen with a majority of 122 votes, to represent the people of Audenshaw! - Notwithstanding the fact that he had to miss his first day of council duty due to the fact that he was taking his University Politics exam!
Now I don’t know this young man and I wish him well in his future career, but when one considers that in these ‘austere’ times, many people are not only turning to their councillors for advice and help on issues relating to the services provided by the council; because of increased state dependency, they’re also turning to their local councillor for help and advice on subjects like; new pension reforms, maintenance benefits, relationships and other issues or problems that are not necessarily the responsibility of the council
That being the case, Cllr Ryan not only has an important role in helping shape future services for the community and making decisions that are essential in deciding public interest on council issues, he is also going to be tasked with dealing with issues that his limited background as a student at St Damian’s may find him slightly ill-prepared for his role as a local councillor.
Another worrying aspect of this, is the development towards making the councillor role a full time job; a natural conclusion based on the constant claims by many of the 30+ year incumbents, who, in an effort to justify their growing 'allowances' persist in telling us that the increasing demands placed on councillors are so great that it is becoming difficult for them to do all the different elements of the role inside a 24 hour day.- And this is before you factor in all the additional work that they do for other councillors in adjacent towns, their political parties, and posing as stand-ins in pre-organised photo-shoots and well as constant campaigning, picking up litter and dog poo!
Until 11 July 2006, residents in the UK had to be 21 years old to become a town councillor, but the age was lowered to 18 by the then Labour Government.
Now don’t get me wrong here, because I think it's important that young people's voices are heard in town halls, but the reality is a bit more complicated. Being a really good councillor requires a formidable mix of leadership, management and 'interpersonal skills' that tend to come with a bit more life experience. In fact, looking at the voting statistics in Tameside, it could be argued that that people shouldn't even be given the vote until they had reached their twenties, once they've gained some life experience, are paying taxes, and can think independently.
As we have been led to believe, the duties and responsibilities of our councilors vary greatly depending on their experience and specialties. Some councillors usually work with children, teens, adults or families who have problems. Some claim responsibility for waste, the Arts. Others deal with transport issues. Some even claim responsibility for our ‘markets’
So, taking on a part-time job while studying at university; it will be fascinating to see which bell Kieran Quinn hangs around young Oliver’s neck!
As Tameside are a council who are said to be constantly monitoring expenditure and looking for ways to make financial savings, it would be interested to know whether the powers-that-be have considered putting young Oliver on a ‘Zero Hours Contract, where we only need pay him for the hours he works?