Just a reason why frontline services in Local Gov should be celebrated!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Image via Wikipedia

“Facts, facts, and more facts!” A line, if I remember correctly, from the headmaster character in Dickens’s ‘Hard Times’.

Quite the appropriate book, don’t you think, considering the times we find ourselves in. The word austere, has surely never had so much coverage. Appropriate as it may be, the Hard Times reference is merely one of coincidence here.

Facts, though, are facts. Facts are, for the most part boring, in my opinion. There is little creativity in facts, due mostly to the fact they are so inflexible. Fact! (Cue, the fact busters…but you know what I’m getting at)

It is facts that are the most fundamental principle on which we should make decisions. Not being in possession of all the facts can lead us to…can only lead us to…making incorrect decisions. This cannot be good when it comes to local authorities making decisions on how they direct resources to address specific problems – large or small.

So look, I’ll get to the point. A true story, that inspired this blog, will highlight this very fact. But, I want it to beknown from the outset this is about the value that dedicated frontline staff can bring to a local authority. I will relate it as best I can!

Picture a street cleaner, who has a ’round’ in a small village. He knows pretty much every inch of that village and a fair few people too. He’s respected their for the great job he does.

In that village though, there’s an issue. Every Friday and Saturday night, the village gets pretty darn busy; pubs full, drinks flowing. The following mornings, between the main pubs and the taxi pick up point, there is a horrendous mess. We’re talking left over pizza, burgers, chips, with a polystyrene packaging bonus to boot, strewn across path and street.

As a result the poor Street Cleaner has to clear all this up. What’s more, one or two council services, maybe including a partner like the Police, have to think about how they can address this issue with the obvious ‘louts’ (young or old) who are doing this. These citizens are clearly irresponsible and something needs to be done. Discussions take place, meetings with all concerned, discussing potential projects to implement to either educate and/or lay down the law to put a stop to this, to what I am sure we would all agree is anti-social behaviour. A deserved use of small, but necessary resources required to launch whatever it is that is needed to solve the issue.

But here comes the genius, that being of the 99% perspiration 1% inspiration kind – the one where dedication brings rewards. The Street Cleaner, doesn’t get it! Something does not quite stack up for him. So what does he do? He starts work earlier in the morning, on a nagging doubt maybe, just to see…but what?

What he is able to feed back to his superiors, who in the best interests of everybody concerned have acted accordingly, is a not only a different point of view, but a point of view based on fact. He did not surmise this point of view, he established the facts through application.

This is what he discovered. By starting earlier in the morning, specifically because of this issue, he noticed that the when he got to the street there was no such rubbish as he was used to seeing. Those louts then, were perhaps not louts. Or, maybe they were a different kind of lout; and this is what he discovered.

Crows! Crows, on making their early morning start, were ripping and pecking out the rubbish that the ‘louts’ had left in the bin the night before. It was the crows whom were making the mess, not the citizens of said village. So to quickly finish off, it wasn’t the collaborative invention of partners that brought a solution to issue, but the genius of application by a single person, a key frontline worker, who posessed ‘the facts’ that was able to bring resolution.

This is not to decry collaboration, really just to highlight that frontline staff in local authorities are perhaps better placed to give advice or direction to service delivery. The solution to the problem was simple, the dedication brilliant; that the Street Cleaner went down early every morning, before the crows, to take that food packaging out of the bins before it found itself strewn across the streets.

Just a reason why frontline services should be celebrated!

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4 thoughts on “Just a reason why frontline services in Local Gov should be celebrated!

  1. That’s a very good way of illustrating a very important point; for all the talk of collaboration, and of working in partnership, it is very often the case that the people with the knowledge, and who are able to offer up the solutions, are front line staff.

    • Thanks Paul

      You’re right.

      The ironic thing is, I think also that the possibility exists that we don’t always ask the right people, ie, the front line staff, because we’re too busy activating a partnership approach – that is, we concentrate too much on the partnership aspect, rather than finding out what the problem is! Starting point should always be pre-work/collaboration with relevant front line, before getting others involved.

  2. Great story! I love the practical idea of just going to take a look at it happening, rather than relying on after-the-fact evidence.

    I, along with all at our own blog, celebrate our frontline workers – Bravo!

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