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New parish council leader thought to be youngest in country at 21
A newly-elected parish council leader is believed to have made history by becoming the youngest local authority head in the country.
Councillor James Butcher has been elected as leader of Lancing Paris Council aged just 21.
Despite his tender years, Coun Butcher is a five-year veteran having influenced West Sussex County Council library policy as a youth councillor.
He described the role as a massive honour and hoped that his example would inspire more young people to follow in his footsteps.
Coun Butcher first became a councillor as a 19-year-old.
Although not from a political background, Coun Butcher, who currently works in the office of East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, said he was inspired to get involved in local politics because of the positive effect he can influence in the town he lives in.
He added: “One day I would love to be an MP but at the moment I am totally committed to local government, there are lots of changes I want to make.”
He has already made a big difference in the area and in the past 12 months as chair of the council’s finance committee he has overseen a £20,000 improvement to the town’s pavements and car parks.
Coun Butcher has also used £10,000 of lottery funding for outdoor exercise equipment.
During his year as leader he is hoping to create a youth summit bringing together local authorities, youth groups and MPs to inspire more youngsters to follow in his footsteps.
He is keen that county and borough councils follow the example of his own authority and hold more meetings in the evenings to be more accommodating to working candidates or parents.
Coun Butcher is also looking to set-up a regeneration task force and bring involving residents’ suggestions for improvements to the area.
As chair, Coun Butcher will set the agenda and chair meetings but he said there would be no difficulties in keeping more senior councillors in line.
He said: “As long as they show respect to me and I show respect to them, age doesn’t come into it.
“I think it’s a misconception that the older generation don’t want younger people involved, everyone on the council has been very supportive.”
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