Politics can seem distant but political decisions affect every part of our daily lives, from the tuition fees you pay to how often your bin bags get collected. But when these decisions are made it’s difficult to know how you can influence them or even who to speak to about some areas.
Your voice as part of your community is incredibly important so we’ve pulled together some key information so you can start to get involved and influence political decisions.
If you don’t think voting is important, please keep reading. Voting gives you the power to decide how the country is run, and whether you vote for a candidate or spoil your ballot, you are making a statement that you’re an involved, active citizen. Your right to vote is empowering and can make a difference, so don’t waste the opportunity.
And every time someone tells you voting doesn’t matter remind them that in the 2017 general election the winning margin in North East Fife was just two votes.
You can register to vote online, and as a University student, you can register at both your home and University address providing they are in different local authority areas. All you need to provide is your name, address and national insurance number.
Who runs what?
MPs, councillors, AMs, Metro Mayors? Depending on where you live in the UK different politicians have responsibility for different areas and the actions of one area often affect the others. For example, the UK parliament voted to increase University fees in England and a few years later the same thing happened in Wales. But it works the other way round too, the Welsh Assembly was the first place in the UK to introduce the 5p plastic bag charge and to scrap fees for hospital car parking both of which are now happening in England and Scotland.
You can find out in more detail who is responsible for what where you live by visiting Your Vote Matters but we’ve picked some key areas below.
Responsible for International development, Defence, Tax, Policing, Benefits System
Responsible for Health, Education, Local Government Funding, Culture, Welsh Language, Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment
Responsible for Schools, Social Care, Waste Collection, Libraries
London Mayor and Assembly
Responsible for Transport, Policing, Culture, Environment
West Midlands Mayor
Chairs the West Midlands Combined Authority a grouping of the local councils across the West Midlands with powers over transport, housing and skills
This doesn’t mean that the politicians who represent you will just do what you say but they listen to their constituents (the people who live in the area they represent) and are influenced by the communications they receive so if you’re passionate about an idea you can use Write To Them to contact your elected representatives.
Politicians won’t be aware of every issue and by making them aware of areas where the law needs to change you can make a big difference.
Just look Gina Martin who after being the victim of Upskirting at a music festival started a campaign for it to be made illegal. Gina got the support of MPs who pushed the issue in Parliament, eventually passing a law to make it illegal.
Alongside representing you, most elected politicians will hold local surgeries or advice sessions that you can visit to speak to them about problems or ideas you have. Details of these are usually hosted on their website.
In summary, at UWTSD we want to empower students to become active, global citizens. Being involved in your local community and helping to influence decisions is crucial. You can ensure that your views are better represented by:
…And don’t forget to keep an eye on our page for chances to make your voice heard in local consultations.