Despite all the efforts to modernise its image, many remain unconvinced that much has changed in the workings of local government. Unhelpful, slow, faceless, bureaucratic and uninterested - these were the disparaging expressions thrown at pollsters charged with discovering what people thought about their local authority.
Shame really, that perceptions have not caught up with reality. The vast majority of councils have come a long way from the days of the 'boys in blue blazers' club, which is hardly the carrot to dangle in front of a new generation of young graduates. Such nonsense, peddled by papers such as the Daily Mail, may do nothing more than make them sidestep a career in one of the hardest working sectors in British life.
Unlike the vast swathe of PR consultants plying their wares in the private sector, there are huge rewards of a very different kind to be gained from a job targeted at making a difference in local communities. There's a lot more to local government and other local public services than grey suits and red tape, whether it's children's services, emptying people's bins, providing health services or policing. It may not sound very sexy, but think of the reward of seeing your own endeavours changing people's lives. Take the campaign promoting a community transport scheme that has enabled an old lady to visit the shops on her own for the first time in ten years; the overweight, bullied schoolboy who is benefiting from a health initiative to tackle obesity; or the redundant staff from the local Woolworths, desperate for advice and support.
Of course, there are serious challenges ahead, with services facing increasingly tighter budgets. Local public services need the cream of the crop to deliver, so why not young people with initiative and fresh ideas? Join me and show the public we are not the boring bureaucrats it thinks we are.
- David Hamilton is a member of the CIPR local public services committee and corporate communications manager at Fenland Council in Cambridgeshire.