To consider the findings and recommendations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Task and Finish Group on Gloucester City Council’s engagement with young people.
52.1 Councillor Chambers-Dubus introduced the report and informed Members that as Chair of the Task and Finish Group, she along with Councillors Gravells, Radley, O’Donnell and A. Chambers had met regularly from March until September 2022. She advised that the Task and Finish Group had worked collaboratively with each other and Officers to establish how the City Council currently engaged with young people, and any improvements which could be made to involve young people in the council’s decisions in the future.
52.2 Councillor Chambers-Dubus explained that although some service areas did have processes in place to engage with young people, the Task and Finish Group felt that there were certainly ways in which the council could improve to ensure that the voices of young people were heard. She advised Members that the full findings of the Task and Finish Group were outlined in Appendix 1, and the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group were set out on pages 21 and 22 of the report. Councillor Chambers-Dubus paid tribute to the officers who had supported the Task and Finish Group’s enquiry and invited questions from Members.
52.3 The Chair thanked the Task and Finish Group for what he felt was an excellent report. He expressed the view that the recommendations were good and illustrated that there was more the authority could do to engage with young people. The Chair was particularly interested in the role of Councillors in communicating and engaging with young people and suggested that more young people should be encouraged to stand in local elections to give a truer representation of society.
52.4 Councillor Pullen thanked the Task and Finish Group for their report. He felt that the Group had focused their enquiry on the right service areas and asked whether the Task and Finish Group felt that officers understood that more needed to be done to engage with young people across the council and were open to change. Councillor Pullen noted that the response rate on the public consultation was low with 15 responses in total, and acknowledged that the Group were likely hoping for a higher rate. He also requested further information about the appointment of the Youth Engagement Officer Lead.
52.5 Councillor Chambers-Dubus expressed the view that the interactions with Officers across the five service areas had been positive. She confirmed that the recruitment of the Youth Engagement Lead was in the very early stages and that the Community Wellbeing Team had informed the Task and Finish Group of the new role towards the end of their enquiry. She expected that further information would be available in due course.
52.6 Councillor Dee referred to the recommendation to produce a child friendly guide on the role and responsibilities of the City Council and queried whether consideration should be given to amending the wording to ‘young person’. Members indicated support for this suggestion.
52.7 In response to a query from Councillor Wilson, the Policy and Development Officer explained that there had been challenges with consulting young people under the age of 13 years old due to GDPR constraints. He confirmed that there were still ways in which the authority could engage with young people under the age of 13, including through Members as leaders in their respective communities.
52.8 In response to a query from Councillor Sawyer regarding engagement with Primary Schools and hosting school visits, Councillor Chambers-Dubus expressed the view that this could be taken further, and that offering school visits would provide an exciting learning opportunity for young people to learn more about local democracy.
52.9 Councillor Gravells reflected on his experience of engaging with young people in his ward through visits to local primary schools. He felt that it was important to listen to residents’ views and ideas, regardless of their age. Councillor Gravells explained that a local school in his ward had suggested that the council could approach the school with child-friendly summaries of options under consideration and asking them to choose their favourite. Councillor Gravells reiterated that the Task and Finish Group had worked constructively and collaboratively with each other and paid tribute to the Chair of the Task and Finish Group for bringing the motion forward to Council.
52.10 A discussion ensured regarding Members’ use of the Civic Suite to facilitate school visits.
52.11 Councillor Pullen referred to the recommendation of the Task and Finish Group to reconvene and meet with the Youth Engagement Officer leads in 12 months’ time and suggested this be amended to ‘it is recommended that the Task and Finish Group reconvene in 6 months’ time for a meeting with the new Youth Engagement Lead Officer to discuss progress on implementing their recommendations’. Members indicated support for this amendment.
52.12 Councillor Pullen also suggested adding an additional recommendation to include a section on council reports pertaining to Climate Change and Planning on the implications for young people. Members indicated support for this amendment.
53.13 Councillor Tracey asked how the City Council was funding the appointment of the new Youth Engagement Lead role. The Democratic Services Officer confirmed that the Community Wellbeing Team had recently succeeded in obtaining funding and it was this funding which would be used to fund the new role, rather than existing council budgets. Councillor Tracey reflected on her experience of engaging with young people as Sherriff and Deputy Mayor and noted her support for welcoming more children in the Civic Suite through school visits.
RESOLVED – That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee APPROVE the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group on Engagement with Young People for consideration by Cabinet, subject to the following amendments:
(1) Amending the wording of the recommendation to develop a ‘child-friendly’ guide on the roles and responsibilities of Gloucester City Council to ‘guide suitable for young people’.
(2) Amending the wording of the recommendation of the Task and Finish Group to reconvene in 12 months’ time to 6 months’ time.
(3) Adding the following additional recommendation:
‘It is recommended that all City Council reports pertaining to the Planning and Climate Change service areas include an additional section outlining how the council has engaged with young people’ in respect of the proposed decision.