23 March 2021

COVID-19: Is local government the 'forgotten partner' of the pandemic?

COVID-19: Is local government the forgotten partner of the pandemic? image

As part of our survey into the impact this past year has had on council staff, we asked readers for their comments. Many were angry that the role local government has played in the pandemic has not always been appreciated by Government or the general public:

’My experience of the pandemic has been that the skills of local government have been grossly under-estimated, under-valued and, quite frankly, have been shown to put the same skills of colleagues in other parts of the public sector to shame. Many local government officers have undertaking roles relating to COVID on top of their existing roles with expectations through the roof and yet, thanks to the dedication and work ethic of officers, our services are still provided to our residents and to a very high standard.’

’Excessive working hours for no extra pay; feel like the forgotten partner in the pandemic - local government officers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support, enable, facilitate, etc and often bear the brunt of local frustrations.’

Whilst there is huge (rightly) recognition of the excellent contribution by NHS for the pandemic, I feel local authority staff have not had the same recognition for the equally hard/beyond duty work.’

’Local government officers are working harder than ever before. Staffing levels and resources have reduced considerably in recent years and the pressure of covering additional work and dealing with the pressures of the pandemic have pushed staff to extremes. We believe in what we do and want to provide the best possible services, but I do not think the current funding for local authorities is sustainable and services are and will continue to suffer. Despite massive transformational change, great creativity and support from local communities and volunteers we risk losing services like museums, libraries, arts, which massively improve the lives, aspirations & skills of residents, as council struggle with the costs of COVID-19 and increasing demand from social care and infrastructure investment.'

'The role feels very thankless at the moment, I've always loved knowing I'm making a difference but people have been very quick to anger the past year and it eats away at you.'

However, council staff did also highlight the positive changes that have occurred as a result of COVID-19:

’It has transformed how we work and driven rapid use of technology throughout the organisation in a way we would never have achieved otherwise.’

’On the positive side over the last year we have worked more collaboratively and productively than ever before. Management has had to more rapidly consider new ways of working, and focus on what we do best instead of saying we can do everything. We are getting more corporate support for automating systems and wider systems change.’

Our readers also explained the challenges and positives of working remotely during the past year:

'For a number of local government officers including myself, the day job has very much continued, with COVID adding additional complexities and workload, as well as fitting in home schooling. It has been really difficult not seeing/interacting with people face to face, and online meetings at times lacking that spark. On the plus side, I have had more time at home with immediate family and hope this is the start of a fundamental change in greater work life balance and flexible working opportunities across the country.'

'Working from home is challenging when you live in a small home with others. Finding space and time for yourself becomes increasingly difficult and you feel more pressure to work more and feel guilty if you step away from your computer.'

'I have been fortunate in that my local authority had implemented remote working systems pre-pandemic, which meant that I could continue to deliver my role when the office was closed and we had to work from home full time. The council has done and continues to do a great deal to ensure that our wellbeing was supported during the past year.'

Read the full results of our survey here.

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