Not many people know what we do as the local authority. I had known this already through conversations I have but it became very obvious during my guest lecture at Newcastle University. The students found it very difficult to describe the services that they used in the city.
I find this quite surprising as in Durham I estimate that somewhere between seven and ten per cent of the working population is employed by the council. That is a lot of marketing and a lot of advocates. If you add up all of the public sector jobs it is a significant amount of employment. So why is it that our story is so difficult to tell or at least understand?
To start off with I don’t think we, the council, are like the public sector organisations. Take the Police or Fire and Rescue for example. Their work is complicated yet in the main they do what it says on the tin. The Police police society, while the Fire and Rescue put out fires and rescue people. The health service is also very complicated but there name gives it away. They look after the nation’s health. They look after the sick and hopefully make them better.
But what does the council do? It certainly doesn’t council people. What is the local authority an authority over? We could do with a more descriptive name. Local society support services perhaps. I don’t think that one is going to stick.
The situation isn’t going to change though. Our serviced are destined to be those that run quietly in the background until they are needed. Like electricity, you don’t notice it until it is switched off. Those of us who work in the public sector are the fabric on which society can flourish. Well, that is what I tell myself and anyone else who will listen.