THIS week in the Assembly I was pleased to announce proposals to give more people across Blaenau Gwent and Wales a say in local democracy.

Local democracy is all about participation and it is important that we increase the numbers of registered electors, ensure that it is easier for people to vote, and give more people the right to take part in local elections. Following on from last year’s consultation the proposals for reforming the arrangements for local government elections include allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote.

Young people in Scotland, where 16 and 17 year olds already have the right to vote, have welcomed the opportunity to participate and engage in the political process.

Local democracy is about allowing people to have their say in the way in which their local public services are delivered.

I believe that it is right and that it will strengthen our democracy if we empower our young people to influence the decisions that will define their future.

It is also important that we increase the numbers of registered electors. Automatic voter registration would help ensure that fewer people are missed from the electoral register.

We are all used to going to the polling station and putting a cross in the box, but it’s important to consider the way in which society has moved forward.

Reflecting on people’s busy lives and the technology available, the Welsh Labour Government also wants councils to pilot new and innovative ways of voting.

These could include remote digital voting, mobile polling stations and voting at places like supermarkets, local libraries, leisure centres and railway stations.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Blaen-y-Cwm primary school on becoming the first Dementia Friendly school in Blaenau Gwent.

It was an honour to attend their celebration assembly last week and to see how both pupils and staff have increased their understanding and have also learnt how important it is to look out for family, friends, neighbours or anyone who may be living with Dementia.

My next advice surgery is being held on Friday, February 9, 2.30pm-3.30pm at Newtown Community Centre, Ebbw Vale.

No appointment necessary.

If you are unable to attend a surgery or have any Blaenau Gwent issues or concerns you wish to discuss, then please get in touch by, by phone: 01495 311160, by post: 23 Beaufort Street, Brynmawr, NP23 4AQ or via my Facebook