The results of the local elections have shown a clear backlash to the Coalition. This crushing defeat has been brought about by young people’s disenchantment with the Liberal Democrats. Twelve months ago, young people and particularly students were the driving force behind Liberal Democrat support. Thursday’s judgement is evidence that the party’s actions in Coalition have not reflected their manifesto commitments and have seriously damaged their ability to be perceived as a trustworthy alternative to the other parties.
Young people feel betrayed by Liberal Democrats and they feel downtrodden by the Coalition. Consistently the government has unfairly taken opportunities away from young people and Britain is in danger of having a jobless generation. The extortionate rise in tuition fees, the abolition of EMA and the cancellation of BSF all combine to mean state school children are being priced out of education. Here in Sheffield, the wipe out of the local area grant has seen young people to be hit the hardest. We’ve witnessed an end to the Careers service as we know it, a dramatic reduction in the number of youth workers in the city, and a scaling back in the quantity and variety of apprenticeships available. Slashing these support networks has manifested itself as an inability for young people to get work.
This local election has given us the opportunity to carry out a constructive protest, through the ballot box. This has not gone unnoticed. Unlike May 2010, this was the election where our votes truly counted, and a clear message was sent to the Coalition that their policies are unwelcome. In turn, the government should use this as an opportunity to respond to the conflict they have caused. There is an expectation from young people that this will happen, and that the unworkable state of young people being disproportionately attacked by these cuts, will change for the better.
In Sheffield this opportunity for change is not for the Liberal Democrats but for the new control the Labour party now has of the City Council. Young people, many of whom used their vote as a protest for change, will demand a new course that recognises the necessity to protect the services that are so vital to many vulnerable young people. The Youth Parliament seeks to continue working closely with Sheffield City Council on issues important to young people. More importantly, the Coalition partners, at every level of government, must act on the judgement passed by the people they represent.
Member of Youth Parliament