TikTok, Twitch, and Twitter: One of Yorkshire's youngest councillors on inspiring a new generation into local politics

From standing in mock elections at the age of just 11, to being elected to the town council, and with eyes on a job in Government one day, one of Yorkshire’s newest, and youngest, councillors is aiming to redefine what it means to be a politician in 2020.

Town Councillor Sam Flint, of Brough, East Yorkshire, is thought to be one of the youngest councillors in the country. Photo: James Hardisty
Town Councillor Sam Flint, of Brough, East Yorkshire, is thought to be one of the youngest councillors in the country. Photo: James Hardisty

Sam Flint, 22, was elected to Elloughton-Cum-Brough Town Council last month, and already has ambitions to make local democracy more open, and exciting, for those it benefits.

Mr Flint, who is on a graduate scheme at Leeds City Council and studying for a masters in business administration at Leeds Beckett University, said he would look to use social media apps like TikTok to reach out to younger people, who historically are not as politically involved as older generations.

With ambitions to create a vlog to highlight the day-to-day life of a councillor, Mr Flint said there were a myriad of ways younger people could be involved in politics, and he stressed the importance of participating.

Town Councillor Sam Flint, of Brough, East Yorkshire, is thought to be one of the youngest councillors in the country. Photo: James Hardisty

A survey by the Local Government Association found the average age of a councillor in 2018 stood at 59 and was increasing, with over a quarter of councillors being over the age of 70.

But Mr Flint said: “When I was 11 it was the 2010 election, and the school organised these mock elections and I launched my own little Radical Party then, and then I did the same for the 2016 election, but it was a bit more organised by then.

“I was engaged all that time and I don’t really know where that came from because I wouldn’t say my parents are particularly political.”

Studying history at York University, Mr Flint stayed away from student politics, saying some of the groups were “toxic”.

But after graduating he took on a graduate role at Leeds City Council, which saw him moved around different departments and even on to the frontline of answering queries over coronavirus.

“I think that opened my eyes a lot to the influence of local Government,” he said.

“You don’t often realise the importance of it, which is one of the things I want to change, and part of that is getting across to people that there’s this whole world of politics that can influence so much.”

Wanting to “dip his toe” into politics and balance it with studying and a full time job, Mr Flint ran for the town council.

“I wanted to get my foot on the ladder a bit and see how I would deal with that responsibility,” he said.

“I know not everyone is going to be engaged with solving potholes or tackling antisocial behaviour so the issues I’m really interested in are those national issues, where we can experiment at a local level.”

Climate change, and ensuring local government was carbon neutral, and a participatory budget, where voters can decide how to allocate a budget.

“The key thing about these two issues is although people might say what has that got to do with a town council, it’s actually a great place to start because you don’t need a load of resources, but it’s a great way to show that you care about an issue.

“We are going to lead from the front and they’re issues which engage a lot of young people and I do think if we target these kinds of things the more young people are going to be interested in local government because it isn’t something that is stale and boring, it’s something that if I get involved in it I can actually make a difference.”

He added: “It shows that we’re not just going to take your precept from your council tax and spend it on whatever we want.”

Already the reception has been positive, Mr Flint said, with more established councillors pleased to have some young blood on board.

“There is an appetite there for it,” he said. “I think they appreciate there is a bit of a lack of diversity, it’s not that they’re not aware of the issues, but I’ve been pleased with the positivity surrounding it.”

Already, Mr Flint said, he was playing to his strength of being young.

“To engage young people I want to speak to them in their medium, and generally our medium is online,” he said.

“And not that I necessarily agree with everything she says but I’ve been quite inspired recently by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the US, I really love her positivity and how she communicates like that and she recently did a Twitch stream [a live online gaming event], she’s all over Snapchat and TikTok.

“I’m keen to engage more in those things, there is an appetite for people in the community to engage with councillors.”

Nationally, he said both main parties were failing young people, leading them to potentially find more democratic representation at a local level.

“I do think young people have been ignored in politics,” he said.

“I think certainly that is reflected in house prices, and the job market, education, as well as the climate, the issues that people are interested in have been largely ignored. I really do think whatever party should try and adopt a young people’s manifesto, that would be a really positive step.”

He said: “It’s a ticking time bomb. I’d love to see either of the major parties come out with something aggressively stating ‘here are our policies for young people and here’s what we’re going to do to solve the housing crisis, to improve apprenticeships’, things like that.”

Although happy to sample local politics for now, Mr Flint did not rule out future ambitions for a Government job, and maybe even trying to grab the keys to Number 10.

“I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t snap anyone’s hand off,” he said. “But at the minute my focus is on the Town Council and just doing the best job there.”

Laughing, he added: “There we go, a true politician’s answer.”