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An Ode to Local Government


By Christian Steffen

Christmas is a time for loved ones to gather, for evergreen conifers to be decorated and for mulled wine to be drunk. Christmas in London is a particularly nice experience: Christmas lights adorn local businesses, and brass bands play beloved seasonal tunes across busy commuter rail stations. Yet part of what makes this time of year so special to so many across London is crafted under the radar of those of us who enjoy it. Looking ahead to my second British Christmas I feel I owe a thank you to local government for the role it plays in making the holidays so festive for all, and how better to do this than to point the spotlight at those typically operating it?

On Sunday I attended the Christmas market in Kingston, a lovely experience, set up by the Kingston Borough Council for all who want to attend. The market, which runs for nearly two months every year, has local music, traditional Christmas stalls and of course good food and drink. After leaving, I asked a friend who organised it. “The council.”

On Monday I walked to my local rail station to start off my commuter ritual and along the way was delighted to see bright Christmas lights of all colours lining local trees and shrubbery. While a relatively small touch, these lights were a reminder that it was Christmas time and that I had much to be thankful for. Along the way, I noticed binmen diligently and efficiently collecting rubbish from house to house in the frost and cold. Realising I had never personally thanked them for the role they play in making my life easier, I took the moment to quickly do so. The response was humble and a bit surprised. “Thank the council”! Tired after a hectic day at work, that evening I returned home via Waterloo Station, which had a small band playing loud Christmas songs next to a massive Haribo Christmas tree. While, as anyone who lives in London knows, commuting is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for all, this was a nice touch by the Lambeth Council.

Tuesday evening saw my attendance at a showing of ‘Elves’, a delightful, if not too interactive, family Christmas show with sophisticated puppetry, live performers and music – with no booking or cost necessary. My interest piqued, after the play I mapped out what other Christmas shows and events sounded particularly interesting to me and made a schedule of which I would attend and when.

More than my own experience could exemplify, local authorities, and more specifically the people who work for them, perform a range of services essential to the functioning of society / local communities and to the maintenance of holiday morale. Social carers, unable to take a corporate holiday break, look after their wards while planning applications are analysed by council planners who travel to work on pavements (relatively) free of ice thanks to the pouring of salt early in the AM by other council employees.

This time of year is lovely for all who experience it across London because of those who work to make it so. Make sure to take time this Christmas season to thank all who work in local government for the work they do in making the holidays so special. Have a very Merry Christmas!

An Ode to Local Government