Since the recent EU referendum vote in the UK, the importance of voting for young people has been given prominence in national discourse. With an estimated lower turnout among 18-24 year olds, there has been much debate as to whether a higher percentage of younger voters could have made a difference to the result. Whatever your experience was of voting (or not) and whatever you feel about the outcome, you will be personally affected by the result. Like many young people in the UK, I feel more passionate than ever about having a say in our future.
Poor turnout among young people is not new, and there are many reasons for this. One such reason is that young people are less likely to feel that politicians represent them or their interests. The issues discussed during national elections do not seem to connect with a younger demographic, and they are accordingly given less attention by politicians. If you don’t feel that you have a stake in the debate, or that the issues being discussed don’t affect you, then it is understandable why you might choose to withhold your vote. However, for many young people the EU referendum result has highlighted what happens if you don’t exercise your democratic right and decisions are taken without you.
The voting period for the RTPI elections has started today, and through my role as a Trustee I have seen how important it is that young planners take part to help shape the future of the Institute. The elected positions empower us to champion our profession, make corporate decisions, affect policy changes and manage the finance of our organisation – including the membership fees that we all pay and the support available to us. You will be aware of the governance structure of the organisation you work for, but how much do you know about the governance of your professional institute? The RTPI has a range of volunteers who are members of committees that set the direction for education, policy, and membership. We also have committees that represent our regions and nations in the UK and develop strong relationships with the planning profession internationally.
With the upcoming RTPI elections, young planners will have the opportunity to vote on decisions that affect the future of the Institute. If you are a student or licentiate member, you will be able to elect three representative members of the General Assembly. This is the debating chamber of the Institute where members are able to discuss issues raised by committees and our wider membership. As students and licentiates, you are the only voters for these positions so it is important that you support your peers. If you are a chartered member, there will be other opportunities to vote for your representatives of the RTPI. This includes choosing a Vice President for 2017 who will lead the Institute as our President in 2018. The Vice President will be a member of the Board of Trustees, which is responsible for managing the Institute and its affairs overall.
When voting commences on 1st September, you will have until 30th September to cast your votes. Do not ignore the email when you receive it! Please take the time to identify which of the nominees you feel would best represent the Institute. You can then exercise your democratic right as a young planner to have a say in your future!
Lucy Seymour-Bowdery MRTPI
Lucy Seymour-Bowdery is the RTPI Trustee for Young Planners and a
Senior Planner at West Sussex County Council. Twitter: @LuceSeymour