Local Government Careers: Job Application Guide

Local Government means the County Councils, Borough Councils and District Councils and all of the many departments that they encompass. Despite its name, it is not supposed to have anything to do with politics nor is it necessarily just administrative in nature. The organisations which constitute Local Government are collectively known as Local Authorities.

“Fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy” (Proverb)

While each individual Local Authority will differ, their function typically includes the following departments:

Building Control

Checking standards of construction, overseeing safety of public buildings.

Commercial Development

Encouraging commercial growth and employment and attracting new companies to the region.

County Courts

Dispensing justice on minor to intermediate level civil actions and criminal offences.

Education

Supervising schools and curriculum coverage, organising school dinners, transporting students to and from school, enforcing anti-truancy laws, issuing careers advice, providing college and sixth form courses and offering adult education.

Electoral Duties

Keeping the electoral roll up to date, organising and administering elections.

Emergency Planning

Developing strategies for co-ordinating and controlling the Emergency Services and Public Safety in the event of a major disaster.

Emergency Services

Overseeing Fire and Police services including training of personnel, and equipping and recruiting senior officers.

Environmental Services

Collecting refuse and disposing of waste, policing food hygiene standards, controlling pests, smoke, noise, and disease in livestock, monitoring slaughterhouses, providing and maintaining public conveniences, cemeteries, crematoria and allotments.

Leisure Services

Establishing sports facilities, maintaining parks, bridleways, footpaths and country parks, running libraries, museums, art galleries and community centres, and promoting tourism.

Licensing

Issuing licenses for the dispensing of alcohol, gambling, taxis, street traders, dogs and cinemas.

Planning

Developing the Structure Plan, granting planning permission, protecting conservation areas and listed properties, accommodating gypsies.

Housing

Constructing, maintaining and selling council houses, paying out housing benefit, and providing accommodation and other help for the homeless.

Rates

Receiving Community Charge and Council Tax payments, issuing rebates and collecting arrears / implementing legal action against non-payers, assessing property values.

Social Services

Protecting children, caring for people with long term illnesses, helping those with learning difficulties and disabilities, supervising the assimilation of ex-offenders.

Transport Services

Constructing and maintaining Public Highways and associated street lighting and monitoring public transport providers.

As a local government officer, your boss is the General Public whose views are represented by the elected councillors. These meet with each department’s senior officers to discuss and develop strategies and allocate budgets which that department must then follow.

Given the nature of the work, there are certain key skills which just about every Local Government officer needs to possess.

He or she should:

  • Want to be a team player
  • Behave responsibly at all times
  • Have a highly-developed sense of integrity, decency and honesty
  • Enjoy above average social and diplomatic skills (if in a job which requires interaction with the Public)
  • Obviously the exact duties, qualifications and salary depend on the post and the level of seniority. Currently, junior staff receive around £11,000 per annum (or £15,000 for graduate entries). With experience, officers are typically paid up to £30,000 or £40,000 if they make it to Principal Officer status.

On the plus side, Local Government officers benefit from a higher level of job security than most (although recent job cuts may make some of this site’s visitors feel differently) but suffer from an inertia against promotion above the annual pay rise and grade progression. In order to really climb up the ladder, employees often have to change jobs, departments or even Local Authority.

Most posts offer flexible working and job share – particularly relevant since 75% of Local Government staff are female.

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