Debate Opinion Devolution: young representatives on local power In 2011 at the age of 12 I was fascinated by people’s anger over what I saw as trivial things: dog fouling, large groups of young people congregating and intimidating people by their very existence, to name a couple. I started getting involved in politics through Homewatch, which is where I met the elected Mayor and local councillors. From there, I wanted to get involved more. In 2013 I decided to stand for Youth Parliament after getting a stray email from the Youth Parliament - and won. It was crazy. I was thrown up in front of rooms of young people and professionals to speak on behalf of young people in Salford - with no prior experience of public speaking. As MYP I went to parliament, faced angered young people who felt let down by politicians. Soon I became fluent in both the system and how to influence decisions at the top as the MYP for Salford. In 2015 I was elected Youth Mayor, acting as an ambassador for the Youth Council, again meeting with the top decision makers and speaking to rooms of people. Undoubtedly, the best part of being involved with youth politics is being able to take the struggle of the young people of Salford to decision makers, as well as having the power to make a difference. What is democracy without the ability for ordinary people like you or me to have our say? As a single voice we can be muffled but as a collective we’re loud. Community groups are the lifeblood of local politics. Without participation, resistance and protest we would live in an elected dictatorship. I am an activist, and the many campaigns I’ve been part of are what have moulded me. I think everyone should join a campaign. Salford is a proud city and we are fortunate to have unprecedented growth in Salford Quays (the home of the BBC and ITV) but what cannot be masked is the struggle of the working. We’re blighted by poverty and low-paid work. A great proportion of the UK Youth Parliament vote share for a ‘Living Wage For All’ came from young people below the working age, which shows that young people in Salford are particularly worried about their future. Devolution could bring a number of things. It’s irrational to believe that devolution will bring an economic miracle to the North - in terms of infrastructure, skills and reputation, we’re decades behind the London Bubble. In the North and in Salford, there can be all the vacancies in the world for high paid, high skilled jobs - but in reality, those are unlikely to go to Salfordian people. London has the infrastructure, the education system that can equip young people for sectors exclusive to London. In contrast, every week I get on a train built in the 70s or 80s that showers water inside when it’s raining, with a top speed of probably 40 miles an hour with something pushing it from behind. Big businesses don’t want to plonk their headquarters in Greater Manchester when it takes hours to travel to some places in the region on a 40 year old train with no fluff in the cushions. Another issue is the politics. For our Parish, Borough and City Councils in Greater Manchester, powers devolved from Whitehall departments to Greater Manchester will actually mean more centralisation. Continuous cuts mean the backbone of services for young people is on the verge of breaking. Already in Greater Manchester some authorities have no youth centres whatsoever and in Salford we’ve lost four. The result of cuts and better collaborative work across Greater Manchester will be efficiencies where services are centralised: one youth service, one adult service and one health service for Greater Manchester….. Devolution means centralisation when met with huge cuts. With the crucial support of Laura Edwards MYP and Elizabeth Harding CEO of Youth Focus Northwest, and the support of the Youth Councillors, MYPs and Youth Mayors in Greater Manchester, we’re proposing a Greater Manchester Youth Assembly that will give young people a democratic voice on cross authority issues. Perhaps the Chancellor should come to Salford and meet the young people that do so well representing their peers - maybe he could learn a lesson or three.