What is the role of a Councillor? What issues are debated at a Council meeting and why?
These questions and more have been answered for the 70 local students who took part in a mock meeting of Ballymena Borough Council in The Braid as part of Community Relations Week, becoming councillors for a while.
The young people also had the opportunity to take part in a Prioritising Services Workshop, which gave them a chance to debate decisions regarding public spending.
At the Youth Mock Council meeting, pupils discussed a range of topics which included requests for funding, staffing decisions and capital expenditure projects, culminating with agreement as to what course of action would be taken. This activity was made as realistic as possible with pupil ‘Councillors’ being sent agendas, items reports and corresponding information one week before the meeting.
The Mayor, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, and Cllr Billy Henry officiated during the meeting, serving as Chair and Vice Chair respectively and some of Ballymena’s elected members were in attendance, giving pupils an opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.
In her opening welcome, Mayor of Ballymena, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, said: “This second session of our Schools Initiative has been organised to help give you, our young people, a better understanding of your local Council and the role we serve as councillors. It is our hope that through initiatives such as this, our youth are inspired to embrace the democratic process.”
Cllr Billy Henry, who was the major driving force behind the project, praised the hard work of all those involved and said the project had been ‘fantastic’.
Selena Ramsey from the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership said: “The voice of a young person is at the heart of the CYPSP, so we are delighted to support Ballymena Borough Council and Ballymena Learning Together in the mock Youth Council event. It was delightful to see so many young people from all backgrounds come together and chat to councillors about their role in Ballymena.”
Dr Paul McHugh, Principal of Slemish College, said: “The schools and colleges that make up Ballymena Learning Together are grateful to Ballymena Borough Council for putting together this Youth Democracy project. The young people have thoroughly enjoyed the programme and have gained insights into the roles of local government.”