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
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.
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
Stay in Your Home
Be a Ranger for a Day
Pop Up Cinema
Men In Sheds