Youth council call rejected

YOUNG people labelled a Tory councillor a hypocrite on Wednesday evening after the council member, who had previously opposed the Manor Gardens skate park, suggested the return of a youth council for Eastbourne.

Conservative councillor Tom Liddiard put the idea forward at Eastbourne Borough Council’s meeting at a Town Hall packed full of young people.

But the teenagers were not there to support Cllr Liddiard’s motion, instead they spoke out against him and held up posters labelling him a hypocrite.

Jamilla Hekmoun, student president at Sussex Downs College, said she felt the Lib-Dem run council was already engaging with the young people and had listened to their needs by providing a skate park in Manor Gardens and a allowing the college to work closely with The Towner.

She said the Lib Dem council bucked the trend regarding funding for young people and said, “For this you are to be applauded.”

Cllr Liddiard and other Conservatives opposed skate park plans for Manor Gardens last year - citing concerns of graffiti, anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse and noise pollution. This made them unpopular with youngsters in favour of the skate park.

Miss Hekmoun said, “Given the disgraceful track record of the opposition, I hardly think it fit, the idea of the youth council should be brought to us today by a Conservative, and in particular Cllr Liddiard. We don’t trust you and the youth forum already exists. You are your ward colleagues portrayed us as drug-addicts and thugs in your literature.”

Halfway through her speech Miss Hekmoun asked the young people to hold up their hypocrite posters.

Many Tory councillors described it as a ‘personal attack’ against Cllr Liddiard and the young people were told by Mayor of Eastbourne Carolyn Heaps to put down the hypocrite poster while he was speaking.

Cllr Liddiard said, “This is not a motion which should be treated as one for political gain, but should be one which will empower the young people of Eastbourne who we are duty bound to represent.

“When we look at the historical context, Eastbourne Youth Council was a well-respected body for many years. I have spoken to officers and councillors who have had a great interest in the feedback given to them through Eastbourne Youth council.

“I am on record as challenging the youth engagement figures within this year’s corporate plan. Again some minimal number of participants’ all from one establishment, again this is not representative.

“The previous youth council was run as a democratically elected body with one member from each of the local schools and colleges; thus giving a range of ages and a complete cross section of the communities. This would give a representative account of the views of the young people in Eastbourne.”

The council rejected Cllr Liddiard’s motion and instead agreed to ‘reaffirm its commitment to effective and purposeful engagement with young people’.