The local government calendar is peppered with annual events – conferences, events, dinners and no end of opportunity for drinking warm wine and networking. The pandemic may have put paid to them in person, but last week we still took the chance to celebrate the best of local government at The MJ Achievement Awards.
It may not have been the usual annual gala dinner and a glitzy awards ceremony with a celebrity presenter, but our first ever virtual awards had the same vital ingredient – legions of local government staff who work tirelessly to deliver for their communities.
Just weeks ago, the country came out and clapped for carers every Thursday. A moment of solidarity in the midst of the pandemic, supporting those on the frontline. While local government may not have been at the forefront of their minds, it has been council staff – alongside the NHS – that have kept the country going.
Then this weekend, I watched two Twitter storms. Sunday Times columnist Dominic Lawson opined over the ‘gilt-edged pensions’ and secure jobs of the ‘COVID-era aristocrats’ in the public sector.
It was not the so-called ‘fat cat’ chiefs under fire, his shots sprayed across the frontline…a slap for carers for their pensions and for keeping their jobs through COVID. Much as the Government’s exit payment cap, designed to curb senior officials’ being paid to leave quietly even when they have done nothing wrong, will hit those far further down the salary scale.
Meanwhile, speaking at a Conservative fringe event, Bishop Auckland MP Dehanna Davison reportedly called for a national care service, citing waste in local government and claiming to have seen people in the sector reading Harry Potter and doing no work for days.
Every organisation – public, private or voluntary sector – may have the odd staff member who doesn’t quite sign up to the full work ethic; who perhaps missed the memo outlining the corporate objectives. But that doesn’t mean an entire sector can be written off with the flick of a wizardry wand.
Local government has worked flat out during the pandemic. A mammoth effort that looks set to carry on for the next six months and beyond. It is an effort that deserves to be celebrated.