This picture is, of course, of the devastated multi story car park at the Liverpool Arena. It was local government staff who dealt with this emergency and its aftermath
Like most people who go canvassing the comment that most annoys me on the door step is, “Why should I vote? I get nothing from the Council!”.
I start off, of course, with the obvious ones. “Oh, you never go on a local council maintained road, under the council maintained street lights or get your bins emptied by local council staff?” Well the more honest grudgingly admit that in fact they do use some services.
Then I ask two deeper questions about the hidden services that the Council provide which most people never think about:
“Have you ever been ill when you’ve been to a café or restaurant in Liverpool or had a takeaway?” “NO? Well perhaps that is because the Council inspect all food providing premises, train and support staff where necessary and in extremis take the owners of dangerous properties to court or just close their premises”
“Have you ever thought what would happen if a plane coming into land at Speke came down inside the City or if a fire broke out in the Mersey Tunnel?” “Well we have. We hope we never have to use this knowledge but we have it all planned – just in case”.
Well, of course and touching wood furiously, we have not had a plane coming down or a Tunnel fire. But we have had a major incident indeed at the Liverpool Arena Car Park. This was an incident that was extremely dangerous and where the lives of humans and animals could have been put at risk. Who solved the problems? Local Government employees. People who are partly paid by you as council tax payers and who are directed by people like me the locally elected councillors and Mayors of the Liverpool City Region.
So, let’s start with the obvious ones. Most people don’t actually know that the Police and Fire Service are a part of local government. Look at your council tax bill however, and you will see that this is so. Go onto the websites of these organisations and you will see in the case of the Police an elected police commissioner and a scrutiny committee made up of local councillors. Look at the Fire Service and you will see a body of 18 councillors from the 5 Merseyside Boroughs. Note that Halton is still a part of Cheshire for these services.
They are an important part of local government because the services they provide are not stand alone. In the case of the police, for example, the police work with the council on street lighting, road safety, anti-social behaviour, child protection, low level crime – in fact a wide range of activities where the police are only part of the solution.
You can see the emergency services but you don’t see the staff of the council itself. They were the ones that ensured that there was somewhere warm for people overnight; helped with a range of problems for people whose possession including their money and tickets were inaccessible. They go on with the job of implementing well thought through emergency plans.
At a higher level it is likely that Gold Command will have been activated given the extent of the fire. This is where senior staff of the organisations including others such as the NHS and ambulance services come together for a strategic review of major incidents like this one.
But when incidents like this occur it always reminds me of all those of our staff who work outside the public view and often with little praise. For example, despite the poor weather our overcrowded bins are being emptied on time and fallen trees and other storm caused damage are being quickly and effectively dealt with.
But its not only in times of major stress like this that our staff can be relied on.
Teachers go the extra mile and are so often doing more than the job they are paid for as they assist with the development of our children, some of whom come from really trying circumstances
Our social workers are easily blamed when things go wrong but day in and day out deal with horrible and complex family situations trying to keep women and children from harm. They pick up the pieces for the elderly or the handicapped whose families cannot cope or for those who have no family at all.
Our staff do happy things as well. Look at the trips of the Giants to Liverpool or the large number of events that take place every year which bring millions of people to our City and fill our cafes, restaurants and hotel rooms.
What about the lovely staff of places like St George’s Hall and the Town Hall who cannot do enough for the people they meet in a whole range of circumstances.
I could go on because the Council does so many things for us but if my list gets too long I will inevitably leave some out! Our staff are often unappreciated and they are definitely now underpaid. They have now gone for 10 years (yes it did start under the Brown Government) when their pay has not kept up with inflation. Whilst it is true that a few at the top are probably overpaid in my estimation the vast, vast majority of our staff are underpaid with little prospect of early improvement.
So next time you see one of our staff doing a good job for you and the community just stop a minute and say, “Thank You”. Our staff do a great job. Liverpool would be in a much worse position without them and their dedication.