Why I love Local Gov

The Guildhall by hullcitycouncil on Flickr
The Guildhall, Hull

Last weekend I was asked by @WeLoveLocalGov if I could send them a sentence or two about why I love Local Gov for this post.

Absolutely, I thought; I know I love local government so surely I can send them 140 characters easily enough? Apparently not.

Whenever I sat down to muse and fire some letters in their direction it was really hard. And it wasn’t because I’d had one of those days where you’re reminded about the reasons why Local Gov is a frustrating place to work. No, it was because every time I sat down I remembered something else about why I love Local Gov.

And as the list got longer I thought the only way to do this justice is to blog.

So, why do I love Local Gov?

I love it for the visible reasons. For gritting streets and filling potholes. For tending parks and watering flowers. For planning and environmental health. For libraries and museums. For doing the stuff that most people think is the be all and end all of the local council.

I love it for the serious reasons. For protecting children who need looking after. For supporting the elderly. For standards in housing. For prizing education. For championing employability. For community cohesion.

I love it for its compassion. For working alongside and supporting the voluntary and community sector to stand in the gap and protect the weakest, the vulnerable and the hard to reach.

I love it for its diversity. The variety in what Local Gov does, and the collection of people who do it. The way different local politics and different local communities mean that we’re not all the same. And yet we’re all seeking similar things.

I love it for the public. Occasionally individuals can be pain but more often than not the involvement of the public can bring unexpected, and valuable, dividends. They’re why we’re here. Not as customers but as the principal actors in our democracy. It isn’t the leader of the council, or the chief exec, or even Eric Pickles who’s in charge; it’s the public.

I love it for its ambition. We come to work to fix problems, not to make do with them, not to settle for them but to try and find ways of meeting needs, and transforming circumstances, with finite resources.

I love it for bureaucracy. No, honestly. Not for the constricting and soul destroying excesses that bureaucracy can be but because groups of professionals committed to shared visions and working within effective and efficient processes can transform things. And I think that’s what Weber had in mind.

I love it for its inventiveness. Maybe it doesn’t feel like that’s always true (see bureaucracy) but there’s a long tradition of doing clever things to solve intractable problems (I particularly like Birmingham’s purchase of the Elan Valley). And the 21st century is keeping that up with innovative solutions and brilliant ideas in both digital, and real, spheres.

I love it for its camaraderie. We have a pretty good atmosphere in the office and my various travels around Hull City Council have been in warm and welcoming community. And that’s matched by the quality of company offered by local government people in various digital spaces. People who share what they’re thinking, demonstrate what they’re doing and lend their encouragement when you’re doing the same.

I love it for its history. It is a rich and varied past but the emergence of a professional and accountable organisation to hold the balance between national policy and local need is a compelling story and one whose narrative is crucial to the way our local communities function. You don’t need to appreciate its history to love Local Gov but you are missing out.

These 10 are worth more than a short paragraph each. It is only a dash through, and a skirt round, the reasons why I love Local Gov but WLLG wanted that one or two sentences so I had to settle with sending them this…

I love Local Gov because it’s full of unsung people who work tirelessly to do the mundane, the important and the seemingly impossible.

About Benjamin Welby

Hi, I'm Benjamin Welby. I'm a displaced northerner currently living in Croydon, I church with a group of Christians who meet in a Soho nightclub on Wednesdays and I support Bradford City. I've an academic background in History, Politics and International Development. I work for the Government Digital Service but I left my heart in local government. This blog is infrequently updated and may feature any, all or none of these things...