Garstang’s first ever youth council has been officially launched with the election of youth mayor Rory Mower.
A host of dignitaries, community leaders and family members packed out the town’s Community Centre Garstang Room to witness the historic mayor making ceremony, held to tie in with Local Democracy Week.
Town Mayor Sandra Perkins told the youth panel they were ‘making history’ for Garstang and the event would go down as another fantastic occasion, alongside the memorable Diamond Jubilee events and the visit of the Olympic torch.
She said: “The launch of this initiative is a very proud moment for Garstang - we are seeing history in the making and it is something we will never see again in this lifetime.
“It has been long term vision and it is fantastic to see our young people getting involved in the democratic process.”
The youth panel was the brainchild of town councillor Lynn Harter, after she joined the council in 2011.
After approaching the local schools and generating interest from a number of the town’s teenagers, she set about a programme of developing an official youth council with the help of Wyre and Lancashire County Council.
Mayor Perkins described her as a ‘driving force’ and congratulated her efforts, she added: “Many, many hours of hard work have been put in to making this happen and we must praise Coun Harter for everything she has done. If it had not been for her this would not have gone ahead.
“Garstang’s youth now have an official voice and I know they really appreciate that.”
MP for Wyre and Preston North Ben Wallace said the launch of the panel was an ‘exciting event’ for Garstang and said he was delighted their vision had become a reality and encouraged by the enthusiasm of the young people involved.
In an email sent to the group he said: “I think you will find that in addition to helping the community, you too will greatly benefit from your participation on the Garstang Youth Panel.
“Early involvement in politics leads to a lifetime of engaging in society. Politics encompasses everything that we value as well as those which we take for granted. I encourage everyone to participate in politics, regardless of the way in which they vote.
“As founders and members of Garstang’s Youth Panel, you demonstrate that young people are not limited to being the future of our country: you can also be leaders of today.”
Coun Lynn Harter said she privileged to have worked alongside the team of 10 teenagers, all aged 16-17, and thanked them for sticking with the project through an important study year.
She urged them to use the council to make a real difference for the town, she said: “Please let this be the beginning – not the end. You are the eyes and ears of the young people in Garstang, you can bring forward their issues, worries and ideas via an official source and you can make a difference. You now have a voice, please use it.”
The Garstang Youth panel as an “action group” will continue to meet monthly at the Youth Provision Centre.
Coun Harter said Local Democracy Week would be an important date in the youth panel diary, with annual events including the young citizen of the year awards, young mayor making as well as visits to the primary schools by the Mayor of the town, and return visit to council offices by the school’s own council members.
She added: “My hope is, that these annual events will not only help to highlight the achievements of the young people of our town, but will also give them a chance to have a say in their own future by making town, borough and county councils more approachable and accessible to them.”
Speaking after being elected as mayor Cardinal Newman A-Level student Rory said: “It is a great honour to be elected as youth mayor for Garstang and a real opportunity to help improve the lives of young people in the town.”
Jonny Bisby was nominated to help Rory in the role of deputy mayor.
The evening concluded with the presentations of the Young Citizen of the Year Awards presented by Garstang Chamber of Trade representative Damian Carr and Town and Wyre Councillor for Garstang Lady Dulcie Atkins.