In many households across the nation there is a general irreverence around local government. The interaction with the local council is limited to payment of council tax or business rates, school places, refuse collection, voting, registrars, and road resurfacing. Good councils quietly get on with the business of effective and efficient provision of local government services and the world continues nicely. That is, of course, until the going gets tough.
These last 10 months have demonstrated, more than ever, the essential nature of these services and the critical intelligence and role councils have in supporting local communities through times of crises. Our country is not uniform. Places and populations are different and economies and wellbeing vary wildly. Therefore, needs and interventions are not the same.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic whilst proclamations were made from Downing Street, elected members, public health directors, and officers were mobilised to assist in the mammoth humanitarian response the virus demanded. The pressures and tolls placed on individuals and teams were immense and compounded by the already precarious financial position local authorities found themselves in. Yet across the country, as has been seen time and time before, it was councils who adapted, responded, and acted with a steely determination to support the most vulnerable in our communities.
Officers were repurposed from existing day jobs to support the initial response. Community hubs were established, food parcels delivered, refuse collected, and PPE distributed. Those with social care responsibilities went further still – working within local healthcare systems to support the safe discharge of patients to their homes, and working with care providers to ensure, in these most extraordinary of times, that people were looked after.
The immediacy of the public health crises demanded even greater levels of commitment and tenacity; a flexibility and doggedness to keep going. When local government was required to step up, it leapt up.
The motto at Cratus is ‘our world is local’. Long before the pandemic, we recognised the unique and essential role councils play and the impact of their decisions on local communities. We are champions of the sector and have always had its back.
Our commitment to supporting local authorities includes facilitating enduring and productive partnerships between the public and private sector to deliver better outcomes for local people. It extends to advisory support to councils themselves, deploying our team of experts into a specific service area to make improvements. And it's this commitment that has driven our decision to collaborate with The MJ Awards and sponsor a new Community Hero category to recognise those unsung heroes who deserve to have the spotlight shone on them for their efforts.
We know that across the sector everyone will have gone above and beyond. But who are those who really have pushed to the limit, gone beyond the beyond, and who can help exemplify why the pride we have in local government should be shared by the entire nation?
We believe this category is about the celebration of the extraordinary. It is about the superhuman efforts of individuals whose contribution has helped prevent communities becoming poorer. Quite simply, without these heroes, society would have been less able to withstand all that a global health pandemic can throw at it.
At the end of the day, we have no choice over the crisis we face. But we do have choice over the way we respond. Cratus is proud to partner with many councils – providing crisis communications advice, undertaking sector-led improvement to services or strategic counsel to senior leaders – and this category is our way of giving back. It is our chance to help celebrate the extraordinary achievements of local government, so I implore you to consider who you feel deserves recognition and to get nominating!
Sean Anstee is executive director at Cratus