Lib Dems to field 17 year-old candidate for seat on Portsmouth City Council

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PORTSMOUTH’S Lib Dems are set to put forward a candidate who could become the youngest ever British councillor.

Ben French will be 18 years and one month old when he stands for election to Portsmouth City Council on May 3 in the hope of winning a seat in the Nelson ward near where he lives.

The teenager runs his own business, BFEM Events Management Specialists, which organises student nights in the city, was chairman of the Council of Portsmouth Students and has been involved with the Portsmouth Youth Parliament.

Mr French, of North End Avenue, North End, said: ‘I’m hoping to benefit the local residents in the ward. The issues are different across the area; some places have problems with parking, some have problems with dog poo.

‘I’m nervous, a bit excited and looking forward to it. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you know what you are doing.

‘I have got enough experience from running a business that I can bring to this.

‘And it could open up a new dimension for people on the council to hear.’

Around a third of the council’s seats will be up for re-election in May – one seat in each of the 14 wards.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We’re trying to have a range of different people in the council to make sure we represent everyone in the city, but we don’t have much representation of young people at the moment.

‘If we want to reflect the city then we have to get people from all walks of life so that everyone’s voice is heard.

‘Ben has a good mix of experience and energy which will hopefully encourage more young people to get involved with politics and to vote.

‘It’s important for the council to hear from the next generation and he would get a lot of support.

‘You only need to be 16 to join the army, and at the age of 18 the government will send soldiers out on the front line with a gun to make life-and-death decisions.

‘If the government can trust 18-year-olds to make those kinds of decisions then they can make council decisions.’

Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm on May 3. The deadline to register is April 18.