Local government officers make sure that the decisions on local government policy made by local councillors are put into action, and that local services are provided correctly

As a local government officer, you will be responsible for the practical development of council policies and procedures. You will ensure that local services are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively.

Local government offers a broad professional environment with good prospects for progression and promotion. There are a range of officer roles in areas such as:

  • education
  • environment
  • finance
  • health and social care
  • housing
  • human resources
  • IT
  • legal
  • leisure and culture
  • planning
  • regeneration
  • tourism
  • transport.

This work is likely to involve contact with members of the public, councillors, administrators and specialists in other departments or other local councils or authorities. Some posts, particularly more senior roles, also involve committee work. Some less senior roles will work more exclusively within specific departments, but can still be responsible for a variety of services.

Responsibilities

Specific activities vary depending on the local authority and department you work for, and on your level of responsibility. Some roles will involve a lot of work with the public, others may have a more technical function and some will work more predominantly with other council staff and departments.

However, you will commonly need to:

  • help in the formulation, planning and monitoring of policies and procedures
  • coordinate the implementation of council decisions and circulate reports to those affected
  • provide support and guidance to the elected workforce, for example to cabinet or local committees
  • coordinate communication strategies, including publications and departmental websites
  • arrange and service meetings
  • research, prepare and write up reports and briefing papers
  • liaise with other council departments, such as finance or marketing
  • liaise with external partners and agencies, including private and voluntary sector organisations, contractors and other local authorities
  • coordinate departmental and corporate plans
  • monitor and report on performance and quality issues, ensuring value for money
  • manage and evaluate projects
  • prepare and manage contracts
  • organise and collect data for external inspections, including evidence of compliance with legislation
  • deal with enquiries and provide information, advice and guidance on policy and performance
  • work with members of the public, councillors and other stakeholders, presenting information at meetings when required
  • provide support and a strategic steer to the management team relevant to your specific area
  • develop and promote a policy and performance framework, which contributes to the operational and strategic functioning of the department
  • coordinate responses to national and local consultations on specific policy areas, such as education.

In more senior positions you may also supervise and manage staff, and manage budgets and funding.

Salary

  • The range of typical starting salaries is around £17,500 to £20,000, although this can vary considerably depending on your location and type of work.
  • The starting salary for graduates on the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) for local government is £25,991, plus London weighting.
  • With experience, salaries can reach £22,000 to £38,000. Higher earnings are possible with progression to senior management or head of department positions.

Salaries vary and depend on the local authority you work for, your specific role and area of work, as well as your training, skills and experience.

Benefits include eligibility to join the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work 35 to 40 hours per week, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. However, many roles offer ways of flexible working, including flexi-time, part-time working, job sharing, reduced or compressed hours, and working from home.

Some evening and very occasional weekend working may be required to attend meetings or events.

What to expect

  • The work is predominately office based, mainly in shared offices and can involve contact with a variety of people. It may also be possible to work from home. Some local government officers will be expected to carry out site or estate visits, which can be conducted in all weathers.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the UK, in most large towns and cities. Self-employment or freelance work is unusual in this line of work.
  • For some senior posts, the role may involve travel within a working day, although absence from home overnight is uncommon. Typically you won't receive a company car, but mileage for site visits or travelling to meetings is generally offered.
  • Overseas work or travel is unlikely, but may be possible depending on the department or seniority of the role.

Qualifications

Entry qualifications depend on the role, although you will usually need a minimum of four or five GCSEs at A* to C (9 to 4) level, including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a relevant degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business studies and management
  • economics
  • legal studies
  • politics, government or public administration
  • social administration and social policy.

However, your skills and experience are usually considered more important than your degree discipline.

For roles in specialist areas such as planning or housing you may need a relevant degree in, for example, town planning, urban design or housing.

Graduates with a 2:2 degree or above in any discipline are eligible to apply to the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP), the two-year, fast-track graduate recruitment programme for local government in England and Wales. The recruitment process contains a number of stages and successful candidates rotate through three to four placements in their chosen participating council.

Many local authorities also run their own in-house graduate or management training schemes. Competition can be fierce, so pre-entry experience is recommended.

Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is common, and there are many opportunities to join local government at entry level as an administrative assistant, for example. You could then work your way up to more senior roles through training on the job.

Apprenticeships are also available at various levels in a wide range of local government roles such as customer service, business administration, IT and data analysis. You could also take a level 3 public service operational delivery officer apprenticeship.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent written and spoken communication skills
  • customer service skills
  • organisation and planning skills with the ability to manage your time and prioritise your workload
  • negotiation skills and the ability to communicate persuasively
  • the ability to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds
  • project and business management skills
  • a logical approach to solving problems
  • analytical skills and the ability to interpret information from a range of sources
  • attention to detail
  • general administration and IT skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to work well as part of a team
  • a results driven approach to work
  • the ability to cope with change
  • the ability to remain calm in challenging situations
  • commitment to local government, the wider local community and equal opportunity service delivery.

For a place on the NGDP or other graduate schemes, you will also need to show leadership potential and be able to proactively look for opportunities for personal learning and development. For more information, see the NGDP: Key skills and behaviours.

Work experience

Some local authorities take students on work experience placements, which can provide a useful insight into local government. You'll gain an understanding of the work of local authorities, get practical pre-entry experience and improve your working knowledge.

You could also take on a part-time or casual role in a local authority to get a foot in the door and gain relevant experience.

General experience of office work is also useful, as is experience in a customer service role.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

Local government is one of the largest employers in the country. You'll work for local authorities, which in England include county or district, borough and city councils.

County councils will have responsibility for services such as:

  • education
  • fire and public safety
  • libraries
  • planning
  • social care
  • trading standards
  • transport
  • waste management.

District, borough and city councils have responsibility for different services including:

  • Council Tax collections
  • housing
  • recycling
  • rubbish collection
  • planning applications.

There are also unitary authorities, and London and metropolitan authorities.

Corporate services within local governments include functions such as:

  • central offices' cleaning and maintenance services
  • finance, administration and secretarial services
  • HR
  • IT
  • legal services
  • management services
  • registration of births, deaths and marriages.

Local government roles are affected by any downturn in the national economy and job cuts can occur when funding is low and budgets need to be trimmed.

For more information, visit the individual websites of:

Look for job vacancies at:

Many local authorities advertise vacancies on their own websites. You can also check the local and regional press.

Recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

Professional development

Most local authorities provide employee training and development. It's common for all new starters at every level to have a period of induction training prior to starting the job. This is then followed by on-the-job training from experienced staff, supported by any required formal training courses.

Many local authorities assess employees' individual training needs through regular job appraisals, which enable the line manager and the employee to identify current and future training needs. This could involve in-house training sessions or support towards other formal qualifications.

For graduates, many local authorities will run specific graduate training schemes, or management trainee schemes, which will usually last two or three years. They will typically be a series of work placements in a variety of roles and departments and will generally be supported by further academic qualifications.

Graduates on the two-year NGDP scheme will rotate between at least three placements getting experience in three areas:

  • corporate
  • front-line
  • support services.

You will often combine these placements around a specific project and will complete assignments in the workplace. As part of the training, you will complete an ILM Level 7 council-specific qualification in leadership and management.

Membership of professional bodies will depend on the department in which you are employed. Training in a specific area relevant to the job will often provide the basis for membership of a professional association.

Career prospects

There's no typical career path in local government because the diverse nature of the profession, and the wide range of jobs, roles and departments, means that people will tend to pursue different routes depending on their own strengths and interests.

With the right mix of knowledge and experience, however, there are many opportunities for career development in local government and progression into senior administrative and management positions.

Movement between departments and between different local authorities is possible and can be a good way of gaining broader experience and advancing your career. There may also be opportunities to transfer to different departments on a secondment.

Opportunities for promotion will depend on your ability, the size of the authority and the frequency of vacancies arising. It may sometimes be necessary to move to another council or authority for promotion to a senior position.

It's also possible to move into other areas of the public sector such as the NHS or into the voluntary sector.

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