1: It thinks you care most about big projects
Name several things you care about your Council doing right. It might be making sure the roads aren’t full of pot-holes. Or keeping your street free of litter and graffiti. Perhaps you have an aged Aunt who can’t get out like she used to and can’t keep herself clean and healthy. Now have a look at your Council Plan. See if these are in there. Or is it Big Projects? This is what councils love. They’ll not be called that, it will be Key Strategic Priorities or some such. Regardless, they are Big Projects. Festooning the skies by releasing flamingoes and bluebirds, that’s a big project that’s sadly never been done. Instead it’s always the sort of thing that’s far more strategic than flamingoes. Stuff that often has within it partnership working. That link describes how Big And Important working in partnership is. It is the Big And Important stuff that it classes as it’s priorities.
Why? Well, flamingoes aside..
2: It thinks “the day job” isn’t big enough
When your bins are emptied, this is “the day job“. If you ring their contact centre, this is “the day job“. A planning application for your extension, “the day job“. Any interaction you have with the council is classed as “the day job“. You are “the day job“. Nice eh? Make you feel important? Or dismissed as ordinary? Work-a-day? Hum-drum, even.
This is because getting your rent paid isn’t a big enough deal. Being helped to the shops so you can live independently and feed yourself? Not a big deal. It doesn’t matter that these are immensely important to you, a big deal is actually a Big Project. So, what’s classed as a Big Project? If it’s not about you and your needs, then what? Well…
3: It thinks you’re not good enough and need “leading”
Christing mercy you aren’t good enough. If you were, there would be no need for the Big Projects. Look at yourself in the mirror. Too fat. No, you are, and so are your kids. Fat kids, that’s what you’ve got.
And you possibly DO have fat kids. There’s loads more these days, due to the rise in income inequality.
Who you going to call to reduce the income gap? Nobody calls the council but they send out nurses to weigh kids and then prescribe exercise and give dietary advice. One to one support! But no reduction in income inequality. That would be actual place shaping, and like the Victorian sewers, would make an actual difference.
The Internet! If you aren’t on the right side of the digital divide, your Council will make sure you have to try and get on it by putting all of its stuff on the other side from you. This is to encourage you to become more like what it would like you to be. And because it thinks it’s cheaper (but it’s actually much more expensive.).
You might not be fat, and your kids might be svelte, but still…
4: It thinks your “place” needs “shaping“
Place shaping! They ruddy love place shaping. Especially place shaping communities. Messianic? Paternal? Or merely grandiose? A lot of good has come from actual shaping of places. Slum clearances, the Victorian sewage systems, the Garden City movement. I’m not taking about that but what actually happens. This is a good example of the thinking.
If you call Warwickshire county council, you are greeted by an operator who asks you which council you would like to be connected to. This example of cross-boundary partnerships is one aspect of place shaping being actively pursued by the county. But the council is delivering a number of other place-shaping initiatives.
Hurray! If your Benefits claim has seemingly been lost by the Council and you ring them, they’ll ask you which Council lost it for you! AND THEY THINK THIS IS A GOOD THING!
Why bother with all the place shaping? One reason is you might look at all those other places you don’t live in and ask why yours isn’t shaped as nice. This is because…
5: It thinks you know and care about local authorities
I don’t live in [insert name of public sector agency], I live in [insert name of small town that’s been around for centuries].
I don’t call my general area [insert name of public sector agency] it’s name is more likely something human beings would recognise like [insert name of geographical area]. The sort of name that gets put on the address of a letter.
When people start working for the council they soon forget that virtually nobody else cares and therefore knows anything about it. They’ve got other things going on to pay attention to. Most residents don’t know if they have the type of mayor who is a ruddy faced old man with a thick hip-hop style gold chain round his neck who gets wheeled out twice a year for ceremonial purposes. Or a mayor who is elected, and has an actual job for four years, doing and deciding things, and being paid for it. This is not their fault. Name your Police Commissioner. Go on, you’ve got one, you voted for them. Or rather, 15% of you did. The other 85% couldn’t give a monkeys. About 65% didn’t vote for their mayor either.
Council’s don’t like this, a reasonable response as more interest and involvement with democracy is a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. But when there is low voter turn-out, this can lead to Councils being pretty thin skinned, verging on a bit narcissistic. They want you to care, like and be interested in them.
And you’re not so you need changing (see point 3). This gives birth to an enormous amount of activity to get and hold your interest. Councils are forever bothering people with announcements, questionnaires and surveys. But unlike dangling a brightly coloured object in front of a toddler’s eyes, it doesn’t.
6: It thinks that you’re local.
You’re just where you are. You’re not local. This is like people in London referring to everywhere else as “the regions”. Local residents, where do they live then? Where could they live that WASN’T local? I can’t think of anywhere anybody could live that wasn’t local. Like the Native American saying goes, if you’re lost in the woods, stop walking and there you are, you couldn’t be anywhere else.