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Maidstone councillors back giving 16-year-olds right to vote

By Luke May

Councillors from all sides of the political spectrum backed a motion to drop the voting age to 16 last night.

The Liberal Democrat proposed motion, which received an amendment from the Conservative group, gained "overwhelming" support from Maidstone councillors.

Emily Fermor was elected to Coxheath and Hunton ward when she was 23-years-old.

Maidstone town hall

Now 25, the Lib Dem councillor continues to campaign for young people to be engaged with politics.

She said: "There was resounding support from young members, we have a number of young councillors including myself, Cllr Georgia Harvey (Lib Dem) and Cllr Matthew Burton (Conservative).

"[We] all spoke very much in favour because this is something we have all taken as a personal mission to go out into schools in the community and encourage young people to talk about their views and to get very much involved in politics.

"If you consider the amount of responsibility young people have these days, we have 17-year-olds making huge decisions about their financial future when they're applying to university, young people can join the army, they can have children.

"Being disenfranchised and not being able to vote on the policies that make a huge impact on their lives is a real shame and it's something that I think all parties are working towards addressing."

Of the councillors present, 38 voted in favour of the motion, seven against and five abstained.

It is thought opposition to the proposal came from a minority of Lib Dem councillors, along with some Conservative councillors.

Council leader Fran Wilson voted in favour of the motion.

The 75-year-old said: "There was a time I would've voted the other way, because of my age and the generation I grew up in.

"But 16-year-olds should have the right to vote, they're intelligent and they're interested in everything around them.

"If they don't have the opportunity, by the time they do vote they'll have lost interest."

Matt Boughton, Conservative councillor for Fant ward, said: "It's good that councillors have recognised the importance that 16 and 17-year-olds have in our community.

"By expressing this and writing to the government, we can hopefuly make it clear that the council supports change, provided there are other changes made to life for 16-year-old's rights, such as appearing on a jury."

Maidstone Borough Council will now send an open letter to government backing the proposal.

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