Harpenden pupils quiz councillors

HARPENDEN’S Roundwood Park School politics students celebrated Local Democracy Week in a way they might not have expected recently.

They found themselves discussing budget cuts, welfare and the much vaunted “Big Society” with St Albans district councillors.

The sixth form pupils quizzed portfolio holder for the environment Melvyn Teare and Harpenden Cllr Julian Daly along with Laura Cronshaw, chief executive of the St Albans Centre for Voluntary Service.

Cllr Daly told students a member of the coalition government’s treasury team at Westminster had admitted to him that even he was, “still unsure of [Chancellor George] Osborne’s cuts.”

Laura Cronshaw warned that small charities had no reserves to cope with the speed at which they were being asked to make changes.

When the panel discussed waste in central government, Cllr Teare described the government as “wasteful in totality”. He explained that locally, environmental welfare was not about how much money was spent but how much was conserved and added: “In the St Albans district three million meals are consumed per week; 40 per cent of which is wasted.”

When it came to discussing the heavily publicised concept of the “Big Society,” all three speakers stressed the benefits of getting involved in the community, for example helping one of the approximately 40 volunteer organisations based in Harpenden.

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A spokesperson for the secondary school said students felt their questions had been answered in a straightforward and honest way. Year 12 pupil Kanyin Fagade said: “It was eye-opening. It gave a real insight into what key figures themselves actually think about pressing matters.”