Youths takeover Newham Council to run things for a day

'Take-over' day...Cllr Gen Kitchen (centre) meets Ashantay Miller and Muhammad Ibrahim

Takeover day...Cllr Gen Kitchen (centre) meets Ashantay Miller and Muhammad Ibrahim - Credit: Ollie Wilson

This article is being published in partnership with Newham Council’s Year of the Young Person, marking the achievements of young people and highlighting services and support groups aimed at them.

A shadowing “takeover” has given young people the chance to run things for a day at Newham Council and given them a start on planning their own futures.  

They stepped into the world of work at the town hall, where they went to meetings and discussed ideas on how to make Newham “the best place to live”.

Teenager Muhammad Ibrahim and 21-year-old Ashantay Miller spent the day shadowing the council’s public communications team, run by Katrin Vangelova and former national newspaper journalist Ollie Wilson.  

They visited the Stratford Youth Zone, had a discussion with Ollie about journalism and PR and met Cllr Gen Kitchen who, at 26, is the youngest member elected to the local authority.  

Cllr Kitchen, who was first elected at the age of just 22, had been put off the idea of being a councillor at first because of the amount of reading and other work involved, she told Muhammad and Ashantay.  

But she changed her mind because she felt “the voice of a transient person living on minimum wage” needed to be heard.  

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Muhammad, a 16-year-old student at Leyton Sixth Form College, and Ashantay, heard about her “baptism of fire” as a councillor, dealing with a custody case in which she had to deliver bad news on behalf of the council.  

“Being a councillor can be all-consuming,” Cllr Kitchen told them. “For me, the council had always been something that made everything work. I have learned how these things happen and to be empathetic and good at problem-solving.”  

Cllr Kitchen, who was elected for Plaistow’s Boleyn Ward and is now deputy cabinet member for community wealth building, shared her experiences with Muhammad and Ashantay for an hour.  

Ashantay is now considering going to university for a possible media career. 

She said: “I was interested to hear about the late nights and long days. Gen’s work doesn’t stop at 5pm.”  

The takeover day ended with a youth assembly at Stratford Youth Zone, with 50 young people questioning what future employment would be like and discussing “the values of the future”.  

The assembly included members of Renewal Programme, Rights Equality in Newham and the Forest Gate, Shipman, Beckton and Stratford youth zones.

Also involved in the takeover day were organisations such as Newham Works HyperActive London, Immersive Computing Labs and The People Speak agency.