Young people to quiz city leaders
POLITICIANS, business leaders and council officers are to be questioned on everything from spending cuts to unemployment by youngsters.
MP Tristram Hunt and city council leader Mohammed Pervez are among those set to face questions at the YMCA's youth hustings.
Up to 300 people, aged 14 to 25, will be given open access to the panel, which also includes city council chief executive John van de Laarschot, Bishop of Stafford Geoff Annas and North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sara Williams.
The Question Time-style event will offer youth groups and students a chance to air their views to some of the region's key decision-makers, who have all pledged to talk openly about issues raised.
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Nicky Twemlow, learning support co-ordinator at North Staffordshire YMCA, said: "The idea is to create an event for youngsters to be able to speak out and question the leaders of our city on what they are doing to support youth.
"There has been a loss of community facilities for young people and employment opportunities in the city are quite dire.
"It's important for young people to have a voice.
"We have invited schools and other organisations, as well as young people from the YMCA and disability groups.
"We've done consultation events to gather opinions and the first part will be set aside for topics the panel know about. For the second part it will be an open floor."
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Mr Hunt said the poor turnout at local and national elections strengthens the need to involve youngsters in political debate in this area. He added: "I think this event is very important. It will allow young people in Stoke-on-Trent to have their voice heard.
"When political apathy is all around us, it is more important than ever."
Mr Pervez is hoping the event can reassure youngsters about their level of influence on politics.
He said: "It is vitally important that we engage with the city's young people to help understand their issues and needs.
"Listening to young people now will allow us to invest in appropriate services in the future.
"Their opinions will, and already do, shape our political landscape.
"We need to show them that what they think does matter."
A similar forum, held before the general election in 2010, attracted more than 200 youngsters.
The free event takes place at the Mitchell Arts Centre, on Broad Street, Hanley, on Tuesday, May 22, between 6pm and 8pm.
Any organisations or groups interested in taking part can call the YMCA on 01782 222376.