A Lament


A moon seemed strangely appropriate for a lament


When we started writing this blog there was a sense of genuine joy in our hearts. We wrote posts about council run walking schemes, the attempts of a council to ban their staff from using the stairs, inappropriate use of the ‘reply all’ button, internal fights over dress codes and what happens when someone spills a cup of coffee.

All of these posts were inspired by our sense of love for local government and our amusement at its eccentricities and foibles. And no matter what we said about our jobs and the places we worked, even when we were being serious, there was a sense of enjoyment and fun that permeated through the blog.

Unfortunately, this is no more. More and more the posts we write are serious (ish) discussions of job losses and pay freezes. Obviously, we still write other posts, but when if we do have a little poke at local government it almost feels like somehow we’re helping the Government ‘cut and cut some more’ agenda.

I make this observation because in many ways the blog reflects real life. 

The past three months or so haven’t been fun at all. The whole atmosphere in local government has changed. Staff know that they are in danger of losing their jobs; hell, I know I’m in danger of losing my job. And even if I don’t lose my job I know I’ll feel really guilty that other people from my team will be made redundant so that I can keep my job.

Last week the restructure for our team was published at about 3:30pm. I had a meeting with a man in finance at 4 and wandered down to see him. I’ve never walked into a place with a worse atmosphere and I can hardly blame them; nearly half of all the people in that office were about to lose their jobs. Sufficed to say they weren’t overly keen on hanging around that day. The guy I was meeting told me he’d hoped to have some assimilation rights but hadn’t. He was now competing with the majority of his colleagues for the few un-allocated jobs. I felt bad asking him about finance to be honest… But the show must go on.

The same applied to the IT team, the audit team, the finance team and many others. The council is not exactly a happy place.

This would be bad enough but we are in Local Government where trade unions and ‘good practice’ have turned being made redundant into a peculiarly painful all around experience. Three months ago I had a pretty good idea that my job was at risk (well, to be honest I sort of knew on the 6th May… or in 2008) as all the managers were working on cuts strategies. So, for three months everyone walks around knowing that they are at risk. Then, this week it is confirmed that I am at risk, along with friends throughout the council. We then have three months to ‘consult’ during which time, unless Malcolm Glazer performs a leveraged buy out of the council, nothing will change. We then have three months during which time we will be able to interview for the jobs that remain and only then, 9 months of pain later will some of us slope off into redundancy and the rest of us prepare for the 2012 7.1% cuts. Yes, I know being approached one day and asked to leave is unbelievably painful and heartless but dragging it out for well over 6 months is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

But the sense of malaise is not restricted simply to the fact we are losing our jobs.

The wider problem is that the narrative that surrounds these job losses is almost all negative. Whereas in the past we might have been told that we were losing our jobs but it was an unavoidable product of reductions in the tax base of UK PLC, now we’re being told that local government workers are lazy, over paid, under worked purveyors of non-jobs simply taking up room in local government until they can get their overly large pension.

Most of my friends work in the private sector and although they’ve always joked around that local government workers are a bit soft that sense is now almost endemic and many people aren’t even joking. Even Channel 4 has got in on the act.

Not to be outdone, when George Osborne announced he would protect crucial front-line services he totally ignored local government; and Mr Pickles and co seem to delight in denigrating local government in all it’s forms.

To be honest I know that some of this malaise is simply my perception of what it’s like right now and might not be any different to what my friends and colleagues in the private sector went through two years ago but it IS thoroughly depressing.

I do genuinely care about the future of local government, and to a lesser, but still meaningful, extent the future of my job and the future of my colleagues’ jobs but right now it all seems a bit like a long tunnel with the only light provided by the onrushing train.

May tomorrow bring a bit of hope!

Explore posts in the same categories: Big P Politics, The future of Local Govt, We love the Council

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5 Comments on “A Lament”

  1. citizenr Says:

    Everything you say resonates with me. I’m trying to be positive but it’s hard when the atmosphere is so depressing at work. Best of luck for the future.

  2. localgov Says:

    It’s a rough time at the minute certainly, and I think anyone working in the public sector will recognise most if not all of the feelings expressed above.

    That being said, in my time in local government I’ve seen more gallows humour exhibited by colleagues than at a nineteenth century guillotine. Those that deal with it best are usually those who use their feelings and situation positively rather than just getting angry.

    In honour of our forefathers, foremothers and fore-non-discriminatory-parental-units, let’s keep our collective chins up and remind the public what they will be missing when we are hit by that train.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by socialworkuk, Alan Shade, Darren Newman, Rick, WeLoveLocalGov and others. WeLoveLocalGov said: A more serious post from us today about how crappy it feels in #localgov right now http://bit.ly/ccPHVe #needcheeringup […]

  4. disgarded.gov Says:

    I understand exactly where you are coming from- I have been working in Local Government for the last 9 years and was told over a year ago that my job would become redundant on 1st April 2011. Everyone seems to think that by being told so far in advance that it makes things easier- It doesn’t- My post has become redundant because the local authority does not wish to fund it any longer so it was put out to Public tender and I have had to spend months listening to the plans of the new owners and everyone expecting me to keep on smiling – to show that I an saddened by it all makes my line mamagers feel uncomfortable so myself and my staff (who are also losing their jobs) have to keep up a pretence certainly in Public,of understand why these steps have been taken etc.Personally I cant wait now for 31st March 2011 to come so that I can finally feel free to show how I truly feel.I am so sorry for my other colleagues in Local Government as they are also living with the sword of Damacles hanging over them and unfortunately we dont even get any Public support as they seem to think that civil servants are fair game but once services start to diminish then maybe there will be a little more recognition of the work many of us do and have been doing for so many years. Good luck to you all in the future

  5. […] an awful lot of very big issues facing local government at the moment which have been blogged about by ourselves and by many others far smarter and more linked in than we are.  There are also major issues facing […]

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