Four elected members of the UK Youth Parliament are urging their peers from across County Durham to speak out for their region.

Darcie Ashman, from Durham High School, Matthew Hill, from St Bede’s Catholic School, and Edmund Smith, from Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, have recently been elected to the UK Youth Parliament. Leah Merrington, from Hermitage Academy in Chester-le-Street, was elected to the UK Youth Parliament from 2020-2022.

The Year 11 and Year 12 pupils are now urging young people to get involved in a consultation being run by Durham County Council on its Inclusive Economic Strategy.

Read more: Council 'driving growth' as Durham passes 33,000 businesses

From post 16 education and good quality local jobs to climate change and mental health services, young people are being invited to complete an online survey aimed specifically at under 18s.

Matthew said: “I think it’s really important that young people get involved in this consultation as it will affect their future and monies will be allocated into areas such as public transport and education through the economic strategy.

“I’d like to go into a transport management role and I travel on buses and trains a lot. In County Durham, I think some money should be put aside to create a scheme similar to those in the Yorkshire Dales to promote connectivity and enable families to get outside and enjoy our fantastic scenery, which in turn will help their wellbeing.

“We don’t want to just bring people into the city centre, we also need to support all our communities. We have some fabulous places, such as Barnard Castle, Weardale, Teesdale and Stanhope.”

Edmund said: “Something that is very important to me and my friends is that there are lots of people living in the North East, but we don’t always see the jobs available that we want to do. There’s lots in London and some in Newcastle, but I think conversations need to be had to avoid our young people leaving the county.

“With such a diverse county, ranging from Durham City to smaller villages and coast, the economic strategy has to work for everyone, from coast to dales.

Read more: How Durham County Council is engaging with businesses to shape the future

“For our communities swathed in industrial heritage to natural beauty spots, it’s important that young people from right across the county feel like their voices are being heard.”

Leah said: “I’m applying to university and recent changes to student loans meaning we’ll still be paying them back in 40 years really do put people off.

“The Parliament’s Make Your Mark results have just come out and the top issue for young people is health and wellbeing. I want to go into health care and there is no doubt that improved access to mental health support services is critical. Issues such as ending poverty also scored very highly.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Because it affects everyone and how they live their lives, we believe that everyone should have their say on the economy.

“The Inclusive Economic Strategy will shape the future of County Durham for decades to come, so it’s imperative that people under the age of 18 are given the chance to have their say and make a positive contribution to their future."

Under 18s can join the 'big econ-versation' by visiting by 5pm tomorrow.


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