Norfolk youngsters vote in 'general election'

Rob GarrattToday thousands of young people from across Norfolk will be marking an X in the box as they vote on who will represent them in the nation's Youth Parliament.Rob Garratt

Today, thousands of young people from across Norfolk will be marking an X in the box as they vote on who will represent them in the nation's Youth Parliament.

After the votes are counted, Norfolk will have a new batch of MYPs (Members of the Youth Parliament) tasked with hearing the views of the region's youngsters and taking them to the powers that be.

The Norfolk elections are even one step ahead of their full parliamentary counterparts: nine new MYPs will be elected to occupy the county's redrawn constituency boundaries, which will not come into force until this year's general election.

Votes are being cast today in one of 39 locations across the county, with polling booths set up in schools, colleges, Connexions Centres and youth clubs.

Anyone aged between 11 and 18 can have a say on who will represent them for the next two years. The elected MYPs, who will be revealed on February 12, will go on to meet regularly on a countywide, regional, and national level, working with councillors, MPs and other organisations

The achievements of the current MYPs who will now be standing down include working with local policing teams, councils, setting up a youth council in Norwich North and shadowing their MP counterparts.

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They were also among the first ever non-MPs to debate in the House of Commons following a meeting last year, and have hosted debates and surgeries in their local region to try to bring youth issues to light.

Elsewhere, Suffolk's Youth Parlia-ment elections take place in mid-March, while the next Cambridgeshire youth elections are in 2011.

Sally Palmer, Youth Parliament East of England co-ordinator, said: "The Youth Parliament raises the profile of young people in a positive way and helps them to take part in the democratic process. It gives MYPs a chance to have a voice in their area and look at the services they are offered, an opportunity to tell the adults what they want and to grow in confidence and skills."

A total of 29 candidates are standing across Norfolk. South West Norfolk is the most contested seat with nine people in competition. However, in North and North West Norfolk just one candidate is standing for each seat, meaning there is no election.

Website: www.talkaboutyou.org.

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