Our Day is the Local Government Association’s annual attempt to bring national focus to the work that councils do for local communities.
People often talk about the fantastic work of the police, teachers, nurses, firemen and armed forces, leaving local government workers to sometimes feel like the ugly ducking of the public sector. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of a uniform or the much broader nature of the work but the same level of public sentiment just doesn’t seem to be there. For people who often opt out of better paying careers in order to undertake public service, recognition can help to keep people motivated during some of the more challenging times.
However, there is another, even more important reason we need better recognition of what local authorities do: the politics of funding.
Councils were already the most efficient part of the public sector when Cameron came to power and yet we have faced the harshest cuts over the following seven years. While part of the reason is that passing cuts down to councils makes us do the hard work, or at least share the blame, it’s also because people don’t react the same way to council cuts as they do to the closure of a school or a hospital.
Yet, the job local government does is vital, from maintaining the conditions of our streets and public spaces, to caring for vulnerable groups and defusing community tensions, to providing housing and the economic conditions in which we live our lives. Hundreds of responsibilities, every one of which playing it’s role in making our communities viable. The remit of councils may be broad, but it is essential and unless people are willing to fight for it they really will miss them when we’re gone.