Your vote will make a real dif­fer­ence

Peo­ple in Amer­sham are set to be given the chance to vote on projects for public money to be spent on. STEVE CO­HEN finds out more

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

MANY read­ers may well be suf­fer­ing from bal­lot box fa­tigue af­ter go­ing to the polls this month to vote in the na­tional and lo­cal elec­tions.

So it’s pos­si­ble there will be a few groans around town when peo­ple learn they need to ex­er­cise their demo­cratic rights all over again, right now, in a spe­cial poll be­ing held in Amer­sham.

The good news is that this is an elec­tion with a cou­ple of unique dif­fer­ences.

Num­ber one – rather than elect­ing politi­cians, you will be vot­ing to give money to good causes

Num­ber two – chil­dren from the age of 11 can also vote, mean­ing this is truly a bal­lot rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the en­tire com­mu­nity.

The elec­tion is called Amer­sham De­cides and the sim­ple aim of Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil – via its Lo­cal Area Fo­rum (LAF) – is to dish out £10,000 of public money be­tween six wor­thy causes.

“It would have been easy for coun­cil of­fi­cials and mem­bers to de­cide be­tween them where the money goes, but we were determined the de­ci­sion was made by the public. Af­ter all, it is their money,” said Martin Phillips, chair­man of the Amer­sham LAF.

“It’s ex­cit­ing that we can do this in such a demo­cratic way. We know there is a thirst for this, es­pe­cially among younger peo­ple who have never had the chance to vote be­fore. Last year when we ran this in Amer­sham, 1,500 peo­ple voted and we are hop­ing for an even larger turn-out this time.”

The other key dif­fer­ence to a nor­mal elec­tion is that you can vote over the in­ter­net – and you have a much longer timescale. Amer­sham De­cides was launched on Tues­day (May 26) and will run un­til July 31, giv­ing the public plenty of time to think about their choices.

The coun­cil will also link up with lo­cal schools to en­cour­age stu­dents to vote.

Ant Mitchell, a teacher at The Amer­sham School, said af­ter last year’s bal­lot: “I think that the scheme is fan­tas­tic and I am so pleased that the County Coun­cil has reached out and that they have re­alised that peo­ple un­der the age of 18 can get in­volved in lo­cal pol­i­tics.

“It is im­pres­sive and for the stu­dents, it is a bril­liant op­por­tu­nity.

“A lot of the time peo­ple feel like it is not for them but schemes like this one make the stu­dents feel em­pow­ered and it makes them more aware of pol­i­tics. It makes them more aware of the County Coun­cil and what ef­fect it can have on their own lives.”

The con­cept is now a tried and tested one at Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil.

Mr Phillips added: “We in­tro­duced it to en­able res­i­dents to have more say in how the lo­cal area bud­get is spent. Many Lo­cal Area Fo­rums are do­ing great work on lo­cal area pri­or­i­ties but we wanted to in­volve res­i­dents more with how the County Coun­cil al­lo­cates its fund­ing to meet spe­cific lo­cal needs.

“This way, not only do res­i­dents make a dif­fer­ence with their vote but they also find out about the fan­tas­tic work be­ing un­der­taken by lo­cal groups in their area.”

A sim­i­lar bal­lot is also now run­ning in High Wy­combe, and one is just fin­ish­ing in Ayles­bury.

Ch­eryl Gil­lan, MP for Che­sham and Amer­sham, added her sup­port, say­ing: “Dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion I was sur­prised how few of our young peo­ple thought that pol­i­tics was rel­e­vant to them. I am there­fore de­lighted that we have an ini­tia­tive in Chiltern which can get young peo­ple in­volved in their com­mu­nity from an early age and show them that their vote re­ally counts and democ­racy mat­ters.”

For those who don’t wish to go on­line, vot­ing boxes will be placed in lo­ca­tions through­out the area

Vot­ing is open to res­i­dents of parishes in the Amer­sham lo­cal area: Amer­sham, Che­nies, Che­sham Bois, Coleshill, Penn. There is one vote per res­i­dent/email ad­dress.

To find out more and how to vote, go to: www. amer­shamde­cides.com.

YOU DE­CIDE: Lo­cal Area Fo­rum chair­man Martin Phillips Chiltern Youth Projects is a char­ity work­ing with chil­dren and young peo­ple. They want use any fund­ing re­ceived to de­liver a pro­gramme of Youth Men­tal Health First Aid Train­ing for adults and young vol­un­teers work­ing with young peo­ple in the wider Amer­sham lo­cal area. Amer­sham Mu­seum would like to work with older peo­ple to cre­ate themed mem­ory boxes, which could be bor­rowed by care homes and older peo­ple’s groups for rem­i­nis­cence ses­sions. Voices and Choices want to re­cruit and train vol­un­teers to de­liver ser­vices to sup­port peo­ple in the Amer­sham wider area to stay in their homes. Chiltern Rangers would like to recog­nise the ef­forts of lo­cal com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, es­pe­cially those ben­e­fit­ing young peo­ple, thank those in­volved, through a se­ries of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to them and our town. The Amer­sham Pop-Up Cinema is a high qual­ity, youth-led project which puts on film show­ings for young peo­ple. The pop up cinema project want to take the cinema to new lo­ca­tions and make it ac­ces­si­ble to all young peo­ple in the wider Amer­sham area. Men in Sheds gives ‘A New Lease of Life’ to men who have ex­pe­ri­enced life-chang­ing events such as ill-health, re­dun­dancy, re­tire­ment or be­reave­ment. It’s a so­cial group where men of all ages can be pro­duc­tive and use their skills and knowl­edge.

CHOICES:

Pupils at Amer­sham School cast their vote at a spe­cial as­sem­bly

The six projects vy­ing for your cash and your vote:

Men­tal Health First Aid Train­ing

Mem­ory Boxes

Stay in Your Home

Be a Ranger for a Day

Pop Up Cinema

Men In Sheds

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