Take a bow | Local Government Chronicle (LGC)
As two council chief executives at the heart of the state funeral share their experiences, LGC editor Sarah Calkin said the sector should be proud of its contribution over the past 12 days.
Sometimes you can let the numbers tell the story and yesterday’s state funeral was one of them. Around four billion people around the world were expected to watch the Queen’s funeral and motorcade yesterday, but probably not the six o’clock.
It is believed that more than 250,000 people have descended on Westminster Hall to pay their last respects to Her Majesty in recent days, some of whom will have queued up to 24 hours to do so.
Speaking to LGC today, Windsor & Maidenhead RBC managing director Duncan Sharkey said more than 100,000 people descended on Windsor yesterday, a town with a normal population closer to 30,000.
Over the past fortnight, staff from across the council have been recruited to organize what has been a beautifully executed event: senior leaders supplying orders of gold and silver to community guardians on the ground . Road workers, street cleaners, garbage collectors and downtown management officers all had a part to play in ensuring the borough was at its best for the occasion. Other staff have swapped day jobs to provide support, leaving colleagues to hold the fort to ensure regular council services continue uninterrupted.
Partners and contractors provided more than 1,000 stewards to support the crowds while there were at least 100 staff involved in building the temporary infrastructure required, such as safety barriers along all of the centre’s pathways -town and the long walk to Windsor Castle, world media facilities and additional mobile phone masts and CCTV.
The council took responsibility for crowd safety and closed nearly 100 roads.
“I’m incredibly proud of everyone… It showed Windsor at its best,” Mr Sharkey said.
The smooth running of the event is no coincidence. Mr Sharkey, who is in the final weeks of his role at Windsor and Maidenhead before joining Somerset CC as chief executive, told LGC there have been between 20 and 30 funeral preparation drills in Windsor this calendar year alone.
Meetings are held at least once a month between the council and the other partner organizations involved in planning and logistics. There have been military-style “concept rehearsal” exercises that go over plans minute by minute to ensure there are no conflicts between what different organizations are planning to do at any given time. .
“Our plans are always up to date,” Mr. Sharkey said. “A lot of people think you would fix this through contingency planning, but we pretty much knew what we were trying to achieve: it could have been unexpected. [at that time] but we knew it was coming.
Hounslow LBC was one of three London boroughs the funeral procession passed through on its way from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle. Chief executive Niall Bolger told LGC that although the planning was meticulous and well-rehearsed, its execution was still a “Herculean effort” for everyone involved.
“The only comparison would have been the first two weeks of the pandemic, but even that didn’t have as many moving parts as this one,” Bolger said. “From counter-terrorism and prevention to cleaning streets and eliminating weeds, while continuing the daily work.”
Across Hounslow, 92 roads have been closed, including the A4 which runs through the center of the borough. As in Windsor and Maidenhead, access still needed to be ensured for vital services such as social workers.
The London operation was coordinated by the Greater London Authority.
“It was a huge effort by everyone involved. Really constructive collaboration across government and the GLA,” Mr Bolger said.
As boroughs hosting elements of the state funeral, Hounslow and Windsor & Maidenhead carried a particularly heavy workload. But for senior council officers across the country, the past 12 days have been relentless as normal hours have been changed to proclaim the new king, open condolence books and create local opportunities for residents to come together to pay tribute on Sunday and Monday. . It was crucial to ensure that these events included modern Britain and involved and reflected the wishes of diverse communities.
It is difficult to imagine the logistical planning required to organize such events in such a short time. Most people spend little time thinking about the work of their local council, but at times like this they certainly expect it to be there, organizing and protecting.
Once again, local government has done the nation proud. Bow down.