Councils are sure to show their best in civic leadership over the next few days, writes LGC editor Sarah Calkin
By the time the news of Her Majesty’s death was announced just after half past six o’clock last night, councils across the country had already begun preparing to support their communities in the days ahead.
As Operation London Bridge swung into action in the afternoon, emergency meetings were called to agree public statements, plan books of condolences and crucially organize flag half-masting.
But the preparations go back much further than yesterday’s tea time. The plan, drawn up by the National Association of Civic Officers with Buckingham Palace and the Cabinet Office, has been in place for decades with the latest update released early last year.
Today senior officers and advisers turned their gaze to the proclamation of the new monarch, King Charles III, at town halls and county seats from Cornwall to Carlisle this weekend. Next on the agenda are local plans to mark the funeral, including possible public screenings or other events. As LGC reported today, the government is hoping local civic events will bring relief to London on the day.
At times of national importance, local government comes into its own. The hoped-for moment of national unity cannot happen without local support for communities as they mourn the Queen and contemplate the major change her passing will bring.
These civic occasions provide a vital focal point for community grief and an opportunity to come together to mark a truly historic moment.
Even those who do not participate can be comforted by their existence; they structure nebulous feelings and demonstrate continuity in times of change. Although few of us alive today can remember it, we have passed peacefully from one monarch to another before and we will do so again.
Although the tradition is maintained everywhere, the events will and should be different depending on the location. The role of counselors as community leaders will be crucial.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth II was truly remarkable, not only for its longevity, but also for the dignity and sense of duty with which Her Majesty discharged this role. His example will be missed in public life.
The loss of the queen, so constant through all the changes of the last 70 years, is troubling. It makes the future more uncertain and the past seem more distant.
The fact that it follows years of political and economic turmoil and a global pandemic only adds to the sense of unease.
Councils have come together to support and guide their residents through the many challenges of recent years. As communities come to terms with the loss of the nation in the days and weeks to come, there is no doubt that we will again see local government at its best.