Careers Advice: Why local government is the place to be

Written by: Charlotte Morphet
Published on: 30 Apr 2018

Waltham Forest

When I moved back to local government last year after five years in private sector consultancy, it felt strange. Many planners start in local authorities and move into the private sector. Yet I am sure the only reason it felt strange was this convention. Over the past year, in my role as a planning policy officer, I know for now that I have made the right choice coming back to local government.

I am no stranger to moving, as I have worked across enforcement, development management and policy, in consultancy and even had a stint in the voluntary sector. The range of projects and opportunities from these internships and other roles has added to my wider and holistic view of planning.

Switching back from private consultancy to local government was easier than I thought and I would recommend it to others. Local authorities are busier than ever as they consider how to build housing again. And there are great opportunities to work on great infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2 or HS2 in both public and private sectors. In local government you are looking at the opportunities infrastructure provides and using it as a lever to improve places.

The knowledge I have picked up in private consultancy has been invaluable. I understand issues relating to the commerciality of development, viability and delivery of schemes. I have experience of delivering projects in different sectors such as health, education and residential. I also understand the importance of continued professional development and networking.

The skills I have picked up - such as project management and managing priorities and expectations - are transferable to the public sector. Similarly, good leadership, negotiation and presentational skills are needed in the public sector as much as they are in the private sector. I am still learning systems and process such as procurement but am enjoying being the project manager on evidence base commissions.

Since joining Waltham Forest, I have had the opportunity to work on some great projects. I have produced a supplementary planning document with colleagues in housing and regeneration; project-managed evidence base commissions; led on a local plan  consultation and am leading on the council responses to national and regional policy consultations.

What I like about my roles is seeing projects through from start to finish, working across departments in collaboration with colleagues and learning from them, being involved in the detail but also being able to step back and think strategically.

So if you are thinking about your next move why not consider a role in local government?   

Charlotte Morphet is principal policy planner at the London Borough of Waltham Forest and co-founder of Women in Planning.