Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Oxfordshire County Council

Please find enclosed Oxfordshire County Council's submission to the Select Committee Inquiry on Citizen Participation in Government.

  This year Children and Young People was chosen by Oxfordshire County Council as the main theme for Local Democracy Week 99. This sat extremely well with the programme that we have been developing for the involvement and participation of young people in community and civic life, which was agreed last October by the Strategy and Resources Committee.

  The initiatives outlined in our submission promise to be exciting and will encourage young people to take an active role in the democratic process in Oxfordshire, both now and in the future.

  If you require further information on the initiatives outlined in our submission, please contact me.

Gwenllian Davies
Information Officer

  Oxfordshire County Council is developing a programme on democracy and citizenship issues for young people. This is in response to the Government White Paper "Modern Local Government—In Touch with the People" and the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools (the Crick Report).

  The County Council recognises that it is important to:

    —  Inform young people about the democratic process and citizenship.

    —  Involve young people in active learning through experimentation with democratic decision-making models.

    —  Investigate why young people are disaffected with the democratic process and work with them to overcome this.

  The programme outlined below is part of the broader democracy agenda that the County Council is currently developing under the Medium Term Plan 1999-2002.


  The Website project has been established as a joint initiative funded by the Youth Service and Corporate Services (from the Communities in Partnership budget) and involves Save the Children and Health Promotion in its Advisory Panel.

  The development of a Website for young people in Oxfordshire is key to widening the debate for young people and opening up communication networks and mechanisms that already exist at a local level, for example youth centres and youth forums.

  The relevance and ownership of the site by young people rests in the County Council not making assumptions about young people's information needs and their views on, for example, the use of the Internet. A first stage consultation carried out during June and July 1999 at a small number of Youth Clubs around the county (mainly The Net in Abingdon) indicated that young people want the site to have clear and realistic objectives:

    —  Open Channels for young people to voice opinions and ideas and to be consulted as part of the democratic process of decision making in Oxfordshire.

    —  Encourage young people from across the county to discuss issues and areas of concern.

    —  Develop a Website for young people in Oxfordshire aged 13-25 years enabling access to national and local information that complements existing structures.

    —  Act as a forum for youth councils, youth centres and individuals around the county.

    —  Link with other main information sources, such as the County Council Website; "The Site"; the Youth Parliament Site

    —  Link with citizenship programmes being carried out by other agencies, such as the Oxford Development Education Centre.

    —  Give access to a wide range of information that young people regard as relevant to them.

    —  Give young people a sense of ownership of the site by involving them in its development and maintenance through Steering Group membership.

  Activities to date include the appointment of the Website Development Co-ordinator and:

    —  Wide support from County Councillors, the Media and youth groups during Local Democracy Week 99 when the project was launched.

    —  Links established with local organisations concerned with young people's issues.

    —  The general information needs of those young people using Oxfordshire Youth Centres have been established.

    —  The level of use of IT amongst young people for finding information has been indicated.

    —  Local business is keen to be involved in the sponsorship of the site.

  As the project develops it is hoped that County Council and Parish Councillors and Officers will be involved in providing local input into the site and participating in activities with young people.


  The Grant Scheme, administered by Oxfordshire County Council, is available for imaginative projects that encourage communities, young people and their local schools to work together in partnership. Grants will be available from the end of October 1999 and will support approximately 10 applications per year for grants of up to £1,500. The closing date for applications will be 1 May 2000 and projects should be completed within one year of receipt of the grant.

  Aims and Objectives of the Grant Scheme are to:

    —  Enable communities to create sustainable links with their local schools.

    —  Encourage young people to participate in the decision making processes of the project and consider the social and community impacts of those decisions.

    —  Support joint school and community initiatives that strengthen the local democratic processes in Oxfordshire.

    —  Help local people develop new skills and knowledge of their communities.

  The schemes submitted must include participation by a local elected representative (County, District, Town or Parish Councillor).

  The Annual County Award will be available for the three most significant Living and Learning projects of each grant year and will celebrate local initiatives that have brought schools and communities closer together and strengthened local democratic processes.


  Following the three successful school student council conferences held in Oxford (Central), Witney (North), Chiltern Edge (South), a countrywide conference has been organised for 3 December at Kidlington Youth Centre.

  The conference will explore with schools issues surrounding, for example, getting elected, agenda setting and the role of the school councillor, to produce guidelines for school student councils. This will ensure the development of good practice and support mechanisms necessary for the next steps in the development of councils in Oxfordshire. Schools Councils will provide a clear route for getting messages about citizenship and democracy into schools in a positive way and making the understandable for young people.


  The broad aims of the project are to establish mechanism (primarily though not exclusively through the use of Information Communication Technology) that:

    —  Increase access to local information.

    —  Strengthen the links between councils and local people.

    —  Involve and respond to local people and local interests.

    —  Catch and retain local people's interest and ensure local accountability.

  By exploring some of the mechanisms currently in existence in Oxfordshire such as Community Websites, printed information eg directories, links with existing community networks and local democratic processes and multiple use of existing IT facilities.

  Progress to date:

    —  Audit (completed May 1999) to establish a database of community-run Websites in Oxfordshire.

    —  Audit (completed July 1999) to identify the following communities for Phase One of CiT—Blackbird Leys, Charlbury, East Hendred, Deddington, Grimsbury, Bicester, Kidlington, East Oxford, Barton IT Hub.

    —  Promotion of CiT to over 1,000 community organisations and networks underway.

    —  Joint working established with Lifelong Learning initiatives to co-ordinate resources and share good practice.

  It is hoped that local Councillors will participate in the project as it develops and that the networks will be extended to include developments such as the Oxfordshire Youth Website and related links.

  For more information on these initiatives contact Gwen Davies 01865 810109.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 April 2001