Our candidate Nik Rutherford, who works as a music teacher with 11 to 18 year olds across West Yorkshire, has set out his vision for working with young people in Otley and Yeadon if elected on May 5th. 

“Young people have been badly let down by this government, with youth work across the UK cut to the bone as result of cuts to local councils. We need to invest in young people and show them they’re a valued part of our community.

Many young people don’t get involved in the activities available for young people In Otley or Yeadon, and feel what’s offer is not for them. The figures for young people who are not in employment, education or training are twice as high from one part of Yeadon to another, and the picture is the same for Otley.

But we are small communities, where we can and should be able to reach every young person, especially those who’ve missed out at school. We have to tackle the idea of a two-speed community where some young people do well while others miss out altogether.

This is what young people, parents and people involved in youth work tell me would make a difference in Otley and Yeadon:

  • Being listened to –local councillors, groups and organisations already catering for young people, and those willing to do more need to listen to young people about what kind of activities and resources they’d like. Listening to young people’s ideas is how the first skate park came about in Otley, driven by volunteers and Labour councillors in the late 1990s. Let’s work towards a Youth Forum in both communities.
  • Space of their own – teenagers need somewhere they can go just to hang out with their friends – somewhere safe, that doesn’t cost them money. Let’s look at the spaces round Otley and Yeadon – possibly empty spaces like the old Weston Lane Youth Centre, or organisations with space who might need the right support – perhaps a small grant, or volunteers, or youth work know-how.
  • Things to do – for young people who aren’t catered for, or don’t get involved in what’s on offer, we need to find ways to reach them with things they want to get involved in – for example, art, music, IT, or more pop-up cafés like the one at Yeadon Tarn. Let’s find out if any of local organisations who already offer activities for young people – for example, Yeadon Cricket Club, the Scouts, the Big Hoohaa in Otley, dance and theatre groups – might with more support be able to take out what they offer to more young people.

If I elected on May 5th, I want to start a conversation with young people, schools, local sports, arts and community organisations and the City Council youth service to look at spaces, activities and possible grants or loans (e.g. from the Lottery, the Prince’s Trust, the city council’s community committee). Let’s find small ways to steadily build up the activities and support that our young people need.”