Column: Where are the next generation of decision makers?

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I’m constantly impressed by the amount of initiatives and opportunities being created to give people a voice, to listen to what people really need in their communities to live the lives they choose.

In Sheffield, I hope that we’re getting better at listening to people’s wishes and making the city a better place for all.

Recently, the Live Lab and Vibrant Sheffield initiatives went part of the way to incubating and bringing forward ideas to make the city a better, more sustainable place. However, on a wider note, it pained me to feel as though one key segment of Sheffield’s future is still being missed in the forward planning of our city – young people. I’m sick and tired of seeing people three times my age sat in suits making decisions about the city where I come from.

A few weeks ago I was in Switzerland sharing initiatives from the city and good practice from the areas of town planning, sustainable economies, social entrepreneurship and youth development with delegates from countries all around the world to brainstorm ways in which we could adopt some common principles for the future of our economies and cities. I’ve listened to the ideas of many young people and older people from our city and it’s clear to me that we need to do more listening - from the council through to businesses, from change makers to policy makers.

I picked up an award from the Queen a couple of weeks ago and shared good practice and initiatives from our city with Commonwealth representatives and my fellow leaders from every one of the Commonwealth countries. We need to do more of this. Sheffield can’t sit back and be left out of key conversations which are fundamental to our future. We have to get involved and create the future we want for our communities; we might have to have tough conversations, ask difficult questions and make a bit of noise to get our voices heard but it’s important we represent ourselves and make sure businesses, the council, our political representatives and ourselves listen to and respect each other’s views.

With the uncertainty brought on by Brexit, I think Sheffield is trying to do the right thing. Julie Dore said a few days ago, on her deal-making trip to China, that we are taking the bull by the horns and designing the future of Sheffield. Yes we are, and I’d be interested to hear about the ‘masterplan’ the council has mentioned – what opportunities will local people have to be involved in the investment of the £220m coming from our new Chinese deal in the next three years? I want to see every generation equally represented to make a difference for the future.