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Published: 1 May 2008
Youth councillors that voted against a motion to make sex education compulsory in schools, from left: Monaf Miah, Lia Georgoulas, Cian Oba-Smith and Iqbal Hussain - the motion was passed
Youth councillors that voted against a motion to make sex education compulsory in schools, from left: Monaf Miah, Lia Georgoulas, Cian Oba-Smith and Iqbal Hussain – the motion was passed
They say they feel ‘demeaned’: but is it just teenage rebellion?

Youth Council outraged by ‘draconian’ attitude towards their plan for £100k budget

THE first ever Youth Council was unexpectedly thrown into turmoil after Camden’s new adolescent councillors rebelled against the officers supposed to be helping them.
Members of the council, who are all aged between 12 and 19, said they suffered “demeaning” treatment when their ideas on how to spend a special £100,000 youth budget were branded a waste of money.
In just two months, the ground-breaking vision of youngsters working hand in hand with their adult counterparts has suddenly turned sour.
The second full Youth Council meeting on Monday night ended in uncertainty and acrimony with senior council officers facing a barrage of criticism for apparently interfering too much with the teenagers’ ideas.
The outbursts were prompted by a claim from Camden’s top youth civil servant, Ronke Martins-Taylor, that they would be “wasting” their money if they went ahead with plans to spend cash on refurbishing schools and youth clubs.
The Youth Council, which was elected to power in February, includes a mini-cabinet of ministers and, just like the real thing, was supposedly able to spend the budget as they saw fit.
Councillor Axel Landin, 17, co-leader of the council, said after the meeting: “They’ve said we can be a Youth Council. Now they have to leave us to it.”
Officers looked surprised as one young councillor after another lined up to criticise a team of officials officially titled ‘youth participation co-ordinators’.
Among the spending suggestions was £2,000 for an out-of-hours reading teacher scheme and £13,000 for school refurbishments.
It was suggested £5,000 should be spent providing recycling facilities in schools, and a further £10,000 for music suites at youth clubs.
Ms Martins-Taylor suggested any money the Youth Council could put into refurbishing youth clubs or paying for teaching would be a “drop in the ocean”.
She said: “It was never the intention that the Youth Council should spend its budget on education and teaching.
“Camden Council has millions of pounds that it spends on youth services and the guidance we give you is to spend your money on areas that we are not statutorily obliged. It’s a dilution of your money and it’s not the best way to spend it.
“All I’m making the point about is that there are statutory areas where we don’t want you wasting your money.”
But the advice went down badly.
“If you didn’t want us to spend our money on education why did you make an education minister then?,” asked Cllr Lorenzo Brewer, 12, who has been given the education role.
“Is it because we are doing things the council has not done and we are more effective? Even with a restrained budget we have done more.”
The young councillors insist they are not pulling a teenage tantrum and are rebelling over what they see as a major flaw.
If they have recognised a legitimate area of need, they should be allowed to plug that gap, their leaders said.
Cllr Landin said: “We’re perfectly willing to take advice but blanket ruling out of anything to do with education, environment and youth provision seems draconian. It’s a bit demeaning.
“Young people should be able to spend their money where they think it’s needed. If that’s in schools and youth clubs and not lavish events and area forums then we need to be listened to and I don’t think we should have our hands tied.”
Further anger followed when Ms Martins-Taylor revealed the Town Hall had spent £25,000 on a publicity drive designed to encourage youngsters to take part.
Councillor Nicholas Seaford, publicity ‘minister’, said: “I think it’s slightly rich of council officers to accuse us of not spending our money correctly when that much was spent on an event. You could go to Claridges for that amount.
“I don’t think they imagined we would be as robust or creative as we were. They didn’t expect us to have the ideas we did and they were alarmed by them.”
Like adult politics, not everyone in the Youth Council agreed with the ministers’ outspoken attacks – and criticised the “ministers” for shouting over backbenchers.
Ms Martins-Taylor said afterwards: “If Youth Council feels strongly about how they think the council should be spending council tax they are in a position to lobby executive members and we would encourage them to do so.”
The proposed budget will now be discussed in a series of private meetings next week.

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