Senators Hustings Meeting - Students
Just 22 teenagers turned up to grill the 21 Senatorial candidates at Hautlieu School yesterday.
Following a lowering of the voting age to 16 and a huge push by the States to get younger people interested in the elections, only a small group were interested enough to attend yesterday's special hustings.
But despite there being only one more student in the audience than there were candidates on the stage, a wide range of issues were raised. Yesterday's after-school hustings was the first ever to be held specifically for teenage voters, following a suggestion from candidate Daniel Wimberley.
Each candidate shared the £250 cost of the event, which was open to all 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. Questions raised included what the candidates would do to restore faith in the States, whether they were proud of the status Jersey has been given as a tax haven, what they intended to do to make Jersey a more attractive place to young people and what they would do to enable more young people to return to the Island.
Mr Wimberley said that he had hoped more students would attend. 'It was very disappointing, having put days of effort into making this happen that there was such a low turn-out,' he said. 'It really troubles me, actually.'
At the session, JCG student Lydia Carter raised the point that at 18 years old, young people become more financially dependent on adults than they ever were before and asked the candidates whether they thought that was reasonable, especially in terms of university fees.
Trevor Pitman said that as a youth worker he spoke to a lot of people about universities and he felt that parents should be paying maintenance only.
Ian Le Marquand said he thought it was right that parents who were better off should be paying more towards their children's education and that he did not think tuition fees were at all fair.
Mark Forskitt said: 'At 18 you should be considered an individual, so it should be you who gets the funding on your merits and what you do.'
21-year-old Jeremy Maçon – the youngest ever Senatorial candidate - said that he did not think it was reasonable that students were so reliant on their parents and that families with more than one child at university should be given a tax break.
Senator Philip Ozouf said that the best investment any society could make was in education and that he did not want to see any young people not being able to go to university or being saddled with debt.
Deputy Geoff Southern agreed with the questioner's view that the situation was 'crippling' and said that the grant system could be reinstated.
Daniel Wimberley also said that he favoured a grant system, depending on the taxation, and said that he was against top-up fees.
Deputy Alan Breckon said that nobody should be excluded from higher education, and Mike Higgins said that things needed to change.
Senator Paul Routier said that he would love to see free further education for everyone, but that the States did have to make some tough choices. However, he said that he did not believe there should be any financial barrier stopping young people going to university.
Nick Palmer said that the situation raised by the questioner struck a chord with him because at 18 he wanted to go to university but because of the means- tested system he was unable to go. He said that 'clearly the current system isn't much better'.
Cliff Le Clercq said that it would be a crime if Islanders couldn't go to university through hardship and said that the money invested came back into the Island when students came back to work here.
This view was agreed by Deputy Peter Troy, who said that the Island needed to invest in its young people and said that there should be extra help for parents with two or more students at university, like his family.
Deputy Alan Maclean said that more needed to be done for middle-income families, particularly when they had more than one child at university, and Chris Perkins said that education was our future and that we needed to use the brains of our young people.
Senator Mike Vibert said that he was 'really pleased' to hear the contenders saying they wanted more investment in young people because during his time as Education Minister he had to 'fight like hell' to get the money that they had now got for this. He also said that he believed strongly in investing in young people.
Mick Pashley said that the Island's grant system needed to be looked at and that he was 'not a big fan of loans for students because as soon as students are finished they are crippled with debt'.
Nick Le Cornu said that he had been paying £9,000 a year for his own stepson with no help or assistance from Jersey's government, and Montfort Tadier said that young people should not be relying on the financial situations of their parents.
Adrian Walsh said that families should get tax relief for all money spent on education.
Deputy Sarah Ferguson said that she did not believe that the current system of loans and top-ups was satisfactory, but that students should also think about whether the degree they want to do is useful for their future.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]