Midlothian drops community council age limit to 16

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TURNING 16 means youngsters can get married, join the army, scoop millions on the lottery – and sign up as community councillors.

But while schoolchildren in Edinburgh, West Lothian and East Lothian have been given a voice in recent years, only now is Midlothian set to lower its minimum age from 18 to 16.

The council has revealed plans to cut the age limit in a bid to give a platform to younger members of the communities.

Danielle Rowley, 23, a former member of the Midlothian and Dalkeith youth forums, said she had worked alongside community councils as a teenager – but had not been eligible to join.

She said: “There are so many youth groups around the county, so it shows young people do want to get involved in their communities.

“But as well as lowering the age limit, community councils need to look at other ways of getting young people interested – perhaps looking at where the meetings are held and making sure they discuss things that young people can participate in. It’s definitely a positive step.”

The Association of Scottish Community Councils has warned that Scotland’s network of community councils could be “dead” within ten years, unless younger members became involved.

The bodies, which have been in existence since 1975, have a statutory role in planning, licensing and other areas.

Darius Namdaran, chairman of Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Community Council, welcomed the proposals.

He said: “We are very enthusiastic about lowering the age to 16 and we hope it gives younger people a chance to have their say.

”It would give us an opportunity to partner with the high school and it might even be possible to make being on a community council a part of the Duke of Edinburgh award.

“Our group is made up of people in their 30s and 40s and also people in their 70s, but people in their 20s and under are not represented as much.”

A community council review in Midlothian is set to cover a range of issues including the role of the liaison officer, exclusions in relation to being a community councillor, types of membership available, recognition of the Federation of Community Councils and a new code of conduct.

Councillor Owen Thompson, community safety spokesman, said: “This is an important consultation and we are seeking the views and suggestions from everyone within the local community. From having a say on antisocial behaviour to organising events, community councils play a vital role within all our local communities.

“The scheme hasn’t been updated for a long time, so it will be great to hear some new ideas to enhance the scheme and give residents a chance to have their say and get involved.”