Could St Ives soon have the country’s youngest town councillor?

WE ALL know that politicians have a lot on their plate, but it’s not often that they have to juggle A level coursework with their canvassing.

WE all know that politicians have a lot on their plate, but it’s not often that they have to juggle A-level coursework with their canvassing.

But that’s the challenge facing 18-year-old Tom Bletsoe, who hopes to become one of the country’s youngest town councillors after a St Ives Town Council by-election next month.

The St Ivo School student is standing as an independent candidate for the St Ives South ward, vacated after the resignation of Rosemary Paget-Crowe in December.

He was inspired by being part of St Ives town councillor Jonathan Salt’s General Election campaign, and hopes to invigorate the youth vote in St Ives into taking an interest in politics.

Despite facing a busy three-week schedule in which he will divide his time between canvassing, completing coursework and revising for his A-level exams in January, the teenager, who turned 18 less than a month ago, is confident about his chances.

“I think I can bring an enthusiasm, freshness and creativity to the town council. Living in a democracy, I think that everyone should have their fair say in politics, and that should mean young people, too,” said Mr Bletsoe, a former chairman of the sixth form committee at his school.

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“I have no party political allegiances, which is as I believe it should be at town council level,” he added.

Mr Bletsoe has the backing of the Independent Network, and has already attracted over 100 supporters to his campaign Facebook page, which he hopes to use to get his message through to young voters in St Ives ahead of the February 10 ballot.

“I invited all my friends on Facebook, but more than half the people in the group are friends of friends and people I do not know directly, so I think the word is spreading.

“I hope that by the end of the week I will be up over 500 supporters and, even though they may not all be able to vote, I hope that they will tell their parents and others who can vote for me.”

Though initially sceptical, Mr Bletsoe’s friends have rallied round and have been helping distribute fliers around the ward where he has lived all his life.

His campaign is centred on getting the youth of St Ives more involved in the running of the town, and turning around any negative perceptions that residents may have of them.

His opponents in the by-election are Richard Oliver (Liberal Democrat), Daniel Rigby (Conservative) and Barry Wills (Independent).

Mr Wills pledged “action, not words” if he is elected, adding: “I want to make the people of St Ives feel like they have a say, and enliven the community spirit we have in the town.”

Mr Oliver said giving residents pride in the appearance of their town would be one of his priorities, and ensuring that the economic life of the town was protected as far as possible from effects of any cuts.

Mr Rigby prioritises efficiency and value for money for taxpayers, along with development, transport and environmental issues.