Local government will continue to move mountains

By Graeme McDonald | 02 November 2020
  • Graeme McDonald

The sessions still available from Solace’s virtual learning week are a stark reminder of the sheer breadth and depth of challenge with which the sector is currently juggling.

I say juggling, because despite the determination, commitment and skills of the many thousands involved, I cannot help but wonder when some of these seemingly ever-increasing balls might be dropped.

Individually the continuation of 10 years of austerity, a pandemic, devastating recession, on-off sector reorganisation, a social care crisis or the growing risk of no-deal Brexit, would each test the sector in normal times. Together they create an unprecedented perfect storm with the potential to consume the sector.

This does not even include the pressure of diminishing resources available to tackle these challenges, with councils unable to effectively plan for the years ahead.

The message to local government going into the winter is a difficult one for us all. 2020 has been a tough year and everyone working in the sector has gone above and beyond, delivering in ways nobody could have imagined in January. Yet we know these efforts will still be necessary through the dark nights and frosty mornings of winter and colleagues will be pushing themselves to breaking point to get through.

Leaders I speak to know this is a hard message for the workforce – but they must also recognise it applies equally to them. The sector is not asking for thanks or celebration – although a little more respect now and then would not go amiss.

During this time, we must also look after ourselves and our colleagues. For example: psychologists talk about five ways to boost your resilience: compartmentalise your cognitive load; exercise mindfulness; take detachment breaks; develop mental agility and cultivate compassion.

These are all important areas to reflect on, not just for ourselves and our close colleagues but also in creating organisational cultures that empower these behaviours and see the manager’s role as creating fertile ground for them to develop.

Local government, we know you will continue to move mountains and be there for us when the rest have vacated the stage. But please do so with kindness, not just to others but also to yourselves.

Graeme McDonald is managing director of the Society of Local Government Chief Executives


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