Ann Widdecombe has thrown her weight behind the inaugural “Run MCC for a Day” competition after joining its judging panel, it has been revealed.
The former MP and Strictly Come Dancing star hailed the contest, the first of its kind in Britain, as a “once-in-a-childhood” opportunity for youngsters to experience local politics “up close and personal”.
Her appointment – under wraps until today – completes the four-strong panel, which also includes David Davies MP, Monmouthshire leader Cllr Peter Fox and bestselling YA author Lucy Christopher.
Together, they will determine which eight children should be given the chance to run Monmouthshire County Council as its ‘Chief Executive’ for a day.
The winners will work alongside councillors, cabinet members and executives at its current HQ in Usk. They will also oversee proceedings in both a full council and committee meeting, and participate directly in certain decision-making processes.
Speaking yesterday from her home on Dartmoor, Widdecombe, an MP for 23 years and the former Shadow Home Secretary, said: “It is with great pleasure that I have joined the Run MCC for a Day judging panel and I look forward to working with David, Peter and Lucy in this regard.
“The views of young people are often ignored and, moreover, they are seldom given the chance to engage in local politics on a practical level.
“This contest not only represents an exciting new way for young people to learn about the political system but will also, I hope, enable youngsters across the county of Monmouthshire to get up close and personal with those in the corridors of power and make their voices heard.”
The competition, officially launched in January, is open to children aged between seven and 18 who live within the administrative boundaries of Monmouthshire County Council.
Eight winners will spend a day – between 9am and 3.30pm – in Chief Executive Paul Matthew’s shoes at the council’s offices in Usk on April 10.
Their ‘working day’ will conclude with a full tour of the County Hall followed by a special winners’ dinner with select members of the cabinet.
They will also receive exclusive prizes from Engage to Change (E2C), the popular online hub for young people operated by Monmouthshire Youth Service.
Similar contests, such as those taking place during National Takeover Day, the annual event led by the Children’s Commissioner for England, do exist.
But unlike existing initiatives, which generally involve shadowing council members, Run MCC For a Day is the first annual contest to offer youngsters the chance to experience day-to-day council duties in a chief executive role.
If successful, other authorities across the UK are expected to follow suit. Monmouthshire County Council Chief Executive Paul Matthews, who will support the winners in a “personal assistant capacity”, hopes the contest will boost election turnouts by tackling “nationwide voter apathy” on a local level.
“This is a fun-filled, once-in-a-childhood opportunity for young people to see progressive democracy in action,” he said.
“We are committed to bridging a recognised perception gap by showing how and why local government is relevant to our young people. We hope that ‘Run MCC For a Day’ is one positive step towards doing so.”
More information, including terms and conditions and a full list of prizes, can be found at www.monmothshire.gov.uk/runMCC and on its Facebook page.