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Councillors have called for more young people to get involved in local politics in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A major shake-up is planned of how people aged 11 to 25 can make their voices heard.

The changes come after council bosses said it was “challenging” to get anyone to stand for groups representing the views of local young people.

Vale of Glamorgan council signed off the changes to the Vale youth cabinet and plans for creating a new youth forum, during a cabinet meeting on Monday, October 11.

Councillor Kathryn McCaffer, cabinet member for leisure, arts and culture, said: “I’m really focused on [getting] young people to be involved in the democratic process. We absolutely have a responsibility as a local authority to encourage and facilitate as many people to be involved in this process as we can.”

Concerns over the current structure were revealed in a recent survey conducted by the council. Young people involved in local youth groups gave their views on strengths and weaknesses of the current setup, with some complaining their work felt “pointless” or a “tick-box exercise”. The results were published in a recent cabinet report.

One said: “Sometimes participation feels a bit pointless. Have we really done anything or changed anything? For example, the Kymin mural is now on a building on the other side of Penarth, and nothing has really happened with the anti-social behaviour element of the project.”

Another said: “Sometimes it just feels like a tick-box exercise for adults to say ‘yeah we got young people involved’. This can be really discouraging.”

One problem is anybody who wants to be elected to the youth cabinet must also be a member of the Vale Youth Forum, but this forum doesn’t have enough members. The council is planning to create another forum, called the Vale Big Voice Forum, whose members could be elected to the youth cabinet. This new forum is hoped to drive up participation.

The Vale Youth Forum and Vale Big Voice Forum appear to be very similar and fulfil the same roles. Council bosses said they would consider how to provide a structure for the new Big Voice Forum to make sure it “looks and feels different” to the current Vale Youth Forum. But both groups are for young people across the Vale to share their views on local issues.

Changes to Welsh election laws have added to the pressure to drive up youth participation in politics. The local elections in May next year will be the first time people aged 16 and 17 years old can vote for who to represent them on councils, such as Vale of Glamorgan council.

Cllr Ben Gray, cabinet member for social care and health, said: “We’re heading into another election where more young people are going to be able to participate in the democratic process next May. I hope what comes out of the end of these conversations is something everyone can get behind and understand that young people want to be involved.

“We also want to make sure that involvement is constructive and that young people feel there’s a value to them being involved. We don’t want to just create another layer of administration to deal with this. This is about opening up as much as we can to get young people involved and to represent their views.”

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