UCL Careers


Working in Local Government - Key Insights

Missed February's Government and Policy Sector Insight Event on working in local government? Read this summary of key points. Written by student journalist Esther Ambrose-Dempster.

A portrait image of UCL student Esther Ambrose-Dempster.

21 February 2023

Knowing how to get into certain roles can be extremely challenging when finishing university. Often being told ‘the world is your oyster’, UCL careers aims to provide students with guidance on how to crack that oyster open.

As part of the government and policy series for UCL careers, a panel event last week highlighted the breadth of work going on in local government, and important tips on how to forge a path into it.

The event began with a short introduction from Careers Consultant Tessa Parsons, who highlighted the local government graduate scheme, the National Graduate Development Programme. Tessa also emphasised a UCL guide to Careers in Government and Policy which will help you to discover job roles, employer directories, key job sites, sample internships and graduate schemes, industry insights, and more.

The key speakers were:

  • Rebecca Johnson, Policy Advisor for the Local Government Association
  • Faith Scott Deuchar, Project Manager for Hackney Council
  • Aidan Jones, Smart City Project Officer for Westminster Council
  • Deborah Missengue, Senior Communications Officer for the Greater London Authority
  • Joe Greaney, Policy and Public Affairs Officer for Southwark Council

All talked through their differing routes into their careers after finishing university, with the range of roles covered between them providing broad insight into working within local councils, as well as for the Local Government Association (the membership-based politically-led organisation which ensures the voices of the local councils are heard within the larger national government).

Key Quotes:

Rebecca Johnson: 

Working in both the charity sector and then for local councils has given me a very useful overall view. Being on the other side of the council has given the understanding of what the local council does.

Aidan Jones:

Central government is another layer away but in local government you can actually see what you’re doing, walking through Westminster and seeing what impact you’ve had.

Deborah Missengue:

There isn’t one linear route to success in local government, its different for everyone. If you have the confidence, courage and attitude to know your skill set you’ll do fine.

Joe Greaney:

Studying a History BA gave me many of the skills that I use on a daily basis and has really helped with my role. Putting together a document you have to write persuasively, summarise the arguments and convince people to listen.

Faith Scott Deuchar:

Look at what you like doing and your skillset. If you like writing and constructing arguments then maybe go into policy making, if you prefer interacting with people then maybe project management.

The panel’s emphasis was on enjoying local government as a place to work, from the number of events being run to constantly meeting new people and being part of a large organisation. The work-life balance was also praised.

Rebecca Johnson and Joe Greaney both spoke about how they had a well-rounded view of local government having worked on different side of the fence, with the roles they both now occupy benefitting from this.

It was also inspirational to hear about how the panel could see the impact of their work. Deborah Missengue poignantly mentioned seeing the impact of helping adults improve their numeracy skills, having important results in managing their finances, or helping their children with homework. Likewise, Aidan Jones spoke about the struggling businesses they had awarded grants to that he recognised walking through his borough, seeing the tangible outcome of working in local government. Further to this, he also noted a 20% drop in car usage outside schools that Westminster Council have worked to put air quality and traffic sensors outside.

Seeing real results in the community was also highlighted by Faith Scott Deuchar who worked on legislation and policy surrounding homelessness in her position with Hackney Council, a role she said to be both challenging but rewarding. It taught her the importance of how a policy lands, building on a question she raised, ‘what’s the point in having a great policy if you can’t communicate and implement it?’

Top Tips:

  1. Think about your skillset – concisely know your strengths and what you’re suited to as this will align with the nature of specific roles in local government
  2. Consider the local government association as well as working specifically for one council
  3. Don’t worry if it feels like your route into local government is taking a while to get off the ground – it’s not a quick process and you’ll be gaining valuable skills along the way from different roles, gaining a rounded perspective which will come in handy.

Join us on 14 March 2023 for the next event in the UCL Careers Government and Policy sector insight programme, Networking in Government and Policy.