Celebrating Local Democracy in South Tyneside
A series of activities are underway this week as part of a South Tyneside campaign to celebrate and get more people involved in local democracy.
Local Democracy Fortnight, which is running from 14 March, aims to raise awareness of the work of the Council, what it does and how it operates while encouraging people to get involved in the democratic process and local decision-making.
The programme of events involves different age groups, ranging from an interactive story-telling session for school children to a virtual intergenerational debate.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Deputy Leader for South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Democratic Renewal, said: "While we promote democracy all year round, Local Democracy Fortnight gives us an opportunity to help people get a better understanding of what democracy really means and how it affects their everyday lives.
"It's all about helping to raise awareness of local government in a more creative way and engaging with as many people as possible. It is particularly important that we introduce our young people to democracy and the democratic process. After all, they are the voters of tomorrow."
South Tyneside's Young People's Parliament will be exploring the ideas that underpin democracy and will be appointing the next Member of the Young People's Parliament to represent South Tyneside.
Other events include 'Mayor for the Day' with primary school children supporting the Mayor and Mayoress with some of their civic duties.
South Tyneside Council's Participation Team will be hosting 'Staryland', an interactive story-telling session, performance and simulated election specifically aimed at primary school children.
The Young People's Parliament will also lead a Virtual Intergenerational Debate, which will see people of all ages debating the topic of sustainability and carbon reduction.
On Wednesday 16 March, at 4pm, in South Shields Town Hall, the Council's decision-making body, Cabinet will be discussing a wide range of issues from culture and taxi licensing to coast road realignment works.
The East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum is also taking place on Thursday 17 March, at 6pm, at South Shields Town Hall. It is one of five Community Area Forums promoting and championing community engagement across South Tyneside.
The Forums are an ideal opportunity for local people to find out more about what is happening in their local areas. Issues discussed range from community safety and housing to environmental improvements.
Local people will also be encouraged to make sure they are registered to vote ahead of the Local Government Elections in May by registering before the 14 April deadline. Apply online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
This year's events are being held in March and have been extended beyond a week for the first time, with events developed with covid resilience in mind and some activities that have been previously held in person being staged virtually or with smaller numbers in attendance.
A series of films will also be screened on the Council's social media channels during the campaign giving people an insight into democracy.
Films include the roles of elected members, what committee meetings involve, a tour of the different spaces in South Shields Town Hall and what they are used for as well as how to vote in local elections.
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Councillor Atkinson added: "During the coronavirus pandemic, online engagement increased which is why we have developed activity through the Council's digital channels.
"We hope that the range and format of Local Democracy Fortnight activities will ensure as many people as possible can still take part."
Any member of the public wishing to take part in the Virtual Intergenerational Debate which is taking place from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Tuesday 22 March, can contact Members Support on (0191) 424 7320.