Adam (left) campaigning in Reading. Photo: Adam
Adam (left) campaigning in Reading. Photo: Adam

Votes at 16

Adam Gillman, Reading Socialist Party

14 years of austerity means that schools are crumbling, bus routes are cut, and youth services are almost non-existent.

Austerity has caused an increase in crime, and violent crime too. This is not surprising. Austerity means worse and less services, and private companies taking over public services, running them for a profit.

With cuts to public services, plus all the other issues, such as the cost of living, vulnerable people are hit hardest. Young people have to live through austerity, not knowing when things were better.

The Tory government has not given the money necessary to councils in order to fund public services. But councils have power, they can use their reserves to fund public services. Then take the fight to the government by mobilising trade unions, activists and the community against cuts. It’s a political choice to not fight back, no matter the party in power locally – Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, or Reform.

In the 1980s, we in the Socialist Party (then known as Militant) did this in Liverpool. We won and got the funding from Thatcher’s Tory government. This led to Liverpool running a massive council house building programme, and investing in public services.

Why can’t this happen now? If Labour aren’t going to do it, then we must stand.

It’s clear what will be delivered by a Keir Starmer Labour government by looking at the track record of Labour-run councils, like Reading, implementing massive Tory cuts to services, and raising council tax. We are paying more for worse services.

Why I couldn’t stand

In this year’s local elections I was going to stand as a candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Wokingham. A day after I handed in my forms, and the council finding no problems, I got a call from electoral services. Despite being 18 years old and eligible to vote in the 2 May election, they explained that I couldn’t stand, because the nomination deadline was three days before my 18th birthday.

Despite being old enough to vote, old enough to travel alone, and do many things, I still couldn’t stand. The need to lower the voting and standing age to 16 years old is clear.

In Scotland and Wales, the voting age is already 16. Younger people, who can get a job, and are effected by things such as austerity, should have a voice at the ballot box.

The argument that young people don’t have the capacity to make these decisions is utter nonsense. You have rich right wingers, who have hardly any experience with the day-to-day struggles of working people, who have never worked a day in their lives. Then there are 16 year olds, working long hours on a zero-hour contract, who need to be able to make their voices heard.

This is not an issue of age or generation. The issues facing working-class people affect all ages.