Nidum Arts Centre at Neath College, part of NPTC Group of Colleges last week played host to a Neath Port Talbot version of the popular political panel show, Question Time. The event was organised by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to encourage young people to join the conversation and give them a platform to express their opinions on political matters affecting them.
Students from across the College, including higher education students and A Level students, gathered to pose questions to a panel of leading local politicians. Chairing the event was Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Cllr. Dennis Keogh. He was joined by Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, David Rees, Labour AM for Aberavon, Jeremy Miles, Labour AM for Neath, Bethan Sayed, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, Suzy Davies, Conservative AM for South Wales West, Anthony Taylor, Deputy Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and Labour Councillor for Taibach, Alun Llewellyn, Plaid Cymru Councillor for Ystalyfera and Leader for Plaid in Neath Port Talbot, Steve Hunt, Independent Councillor for Seven Sisters and Leader of Independent Democrats in Neath Port Talbot and Sheila Kingston-Jones, Lead South West Wales Regional List Candidate for the Liberal Democrats at the next Welsh Assembly elections.
Mayor Keogh began by introducing the panel and highlighting the importance of hearing the views and opinions of young people in Neath Port Talbot. This led to the first question of the day which was; “Should the voting age be lowered to 16?” A lively debate followed involving both panel and audience members and the unanimous conclusion was that the vote should be given to 16 and 17 years olds; indeed this forms part of many of the represented parties’ manifestos. Students followed with challenging questions around anti-Semitism, Shamima Begum, student loans and the National Minimum Wage. The discussion which followed focused not only on the general political landscape but also on the direct effect that these issues have on young people, both locally and nationally. It allowed the panel to hear directly from the young people and acknowledge the different viewpoints that were being presented to them, all agreeing on the importance of giving young people a voice.
As the debate drew to a close, Mayor Keogh reaffirmed the importance of registering and exercising one’s fundamental right to vote and this was echoed by the panel. He urged students to register at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote, if they hadn’t done so already.
Mark Dacey, Principal/CEO of NPTC Group of Colleges said: “It is great to give this unique opportunity to our students and young people as a whole. Often, they are perceived to be apathetic towards politics and events like these only serve to highlight that the young people of Neath/Port Talbot are not only interested in what politicians have to say, but also have a great desire to join in the conversation. It was inspiring to see so many of our students directly debating with the panel. We wish to thank the politicians for giving up their time to be with us today. Also thanks to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council for organising the event; I hope it is the first of many”.
Mayor of Neath Port Talbot Cllr Dennis Keogh said: “I was delighted, in my role as first citizen, to be able to initiate this event which was designed to engage local young people in the democratic process. It is crucial that young people feel empowered and that they have a say in the issues that matter to them and I would like to thank our audience and panel members for their contributions. This will hopefully be the first of many such events. I would also like to give my thanks to the NPTC Group staff and students involved behind the scenes for their support in facilitating and hosting this event and making it such a success”.
Pic Caption: The panel at NPT Question Time