When I popped to my local pub on New Year’s Eve, little did I know I would end up starting 2019 defining and defending local government to a group of fellow mid-twenty-year olds.
I did not anticipate that, when explaining what I do for a living, I would be asked ‘How do you organise events and manage communications on bins?’. It was then my passion ignited…
There is a common misconception among my generation that bins, taxes and fly-tipping are the three – and only – pillars of local government. While these are important ways that residents interact with their councils, this is a bit of an over simplification. Over my time at NLGN, I have spoken to many council officers in their late teens and twenties, and I am always struck by their dedication to their work and its greater purpose. As one council officer recently explained, “local government is the place to get stuff done. You can see the real, tangible effect of your work on a local community. It is an organisational aim that really connects and fits with myself and my peers”.
As this quote effectively highlights, the philosophy of local government very much resonates with my generation – it is about doing good, about increasing communities’ autonomy. As an ex-colleague, turned council officer, phrased it, “the sector picks up the social ills that no one else does in some way or other”.
There is more to be done to engage my generation in local government. I admit, my venture into the sector wasn’t deliberate; at university, I became increasingly interested in the think tank field, and it was here that I came across NLGN and the world of local government more broadly. As someone who thrives off variety, I have certainly found the right area for me; the breadth of councils’ work is extensive – there is always a new policy area to explore.
While it is difficult for councils to invest further in communications to promote their work in difficult financial times, it would be highly valuable – connecting further with schools, colleges and universities to highlight the fantastic work local authorities undertake can help secure the strong council workforce of tomorrow.
As we know, the sector is facing some of it greatest challenges. But this presents a real opportunity for innovation and creativity. For anyone leaving school or university in forthcoming months, now is the time to explore the possibility of a career in local government. As a previous colleague perceptively observed, “as the future of the sector hits the headlines, there is a lot of impact to be made and plenty of access to real responsibility”.
It is my hope that, in 2019, more of my peers will take the time to understand local government, and even consider a change in career.
NLGN are looking to undertake a project on younger generations and the local government sector. If you are interested in finding out more or partnering on our work, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.