In the spotlight

STUDENTS from six schools kept a panel of experts on their toes during a Question Time session to mark Local Democracy Week. Among the probing issues they raised was recycling, transport, activities for young people, safety and health. The six-strong pane

STUDENTS from six schools kept a panel of experts on their toes during a Question Time session to mark Local Democracy Week.

Among the probing issues they raised was recycling, transport, activities for young people, safety and health.

The six-strong panel at the Plinston Hall in Letchworth GC last Thursday included three district councillors - Sarah Wren, children's champion and portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, Labour group leader David Kearns and Lib Dems leader Steve Jarvis - Bob Mardon, performance director for the Rhythms of the World festival, Mohammed Alam, director of the North Herts Minority Ethnic Forum, and Darren Isted, editor of The Comet.

Chairman Nicholas Moss, a journalist and chairman of the North Herts Magistrates' Bench, encouraged comments from the floor and featured a variety of the 40 questions that had been submitted.

Cllr Tricia Gibbs, the council's portfolio holder for community engagement, said: "This is the first time we have run an event like this and it was a great success which we will be repeating.

"We wanted to mark Local Democracy Week and involve more young people in the democratic process which is vitally important but can have a dull image.

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"The students responded with enthusiasm and we were all very impressed by their lively questions and their intelligent comments. We will be taking much of what they said on board and seeing if we can respond to their needs and concerns."

Mr Moss said it was very lively and positive with a constructive mature debate. "We will be doing a similar event next year and may take it on tour," he added.

The schools that took part were Fearnhill in Letchworth GC, Meridian in Royston, Knights Templar in Baldock, and the Girls', the Boys' and Priory from Hitchin.