AFTER spending 45 years working in local government within Gwent, it’s safe to say that Dewi Jones has seen a lot of change.

The formation and abolition of a sprawling authority, discrimination in the workplace, and increasing workloads amid growing financial pressures.

But as he retires at the age of 63, the Monmouthshire County Council communications officer has offered an insight into a career spent “proudly” serving the public.

Mr Jones joined Gwent County Council in May 1974 – one month after it opened its doors in Croesyceiliog – and entered a workplace swarming with armies of young clerks.

But there was also a cultural toxicity in the air, with overt sexism and racism often filtering into the daily office chatter.

“There wasn’t a glass ceiling for women, it was nailed to the floor,” said Mr Jones.


“Back then very few women got much beyond one or two promotions but nowadays you see a lot of women working in senior and middle management roles in local government.

“I’m glad to say that there is now a robust attitude against any discrimination, and local government is a standard bearer for respect.”

There was also the problem of County Hall itself. Built without air conditioning and clad in dark materials, sweltering temperatures would see output drastically reduce.

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Mr Jones says the summer heatwave of 1976 provided the perfect climate for a banana plant to be grown inside one of the “greenhouse” offices.

Then, in 1978, the council chamber – complete with air conditioning – was opened by the Queen Mother, with employees like Mr Jones often sneaking inside for a short time to cool down.

He added: “You could always tell a councillor from a mile off as they’d be wearing tweed coats because the chamber was so cold.”

The tea break was considered as an “almost sacred affair”, with the snacks trolley confounding workers as it used different routes while touring the building.

A posse of around 25 hungry local government officers would scour the building to find the trolley, quizzing passers-by as to its whereabouts on one of the building’s eight floors.

Such was the ferocity of their searches that a small shop was later provided to serve the 800 or so staff based in County Hall.

While at Gwent County Council, Mr Jones would work for the council’s architects, property surveyors and County Farms smallholdings.

During this time, he also became involved with the National and Local Government Officers’ Association (NALGO), the trade union which would become Unison.

NALGO had negotiated half an hour off the working work and in 1989, members – including Mr Jones – went on strike in a bid to secure greater pay.

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“Local government was falling drastically behind the private sector, it had gone beyond a joke,” said Mr Jones.

“We won the dispute through force of argument, but we also had a lot of support from the public.”

By the early 1990s local authorities across the UK were being reformed, and Gwent County Council was eventually abolished in favour of unitary authorities in April 1996.

The move is still unpopular among some residents and council employees including Mr Jones, who believes it was handled poorly.

“There was no demand for it, I can’t remember seeing people at the foot of County Hall crying out for local government reorganisation,” said Mr Jones.

“It also split people asunder. If you worked for Gwent County Council your colleagues went in six different directions – Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, or retirement.

“Most went for early retirement and we lost a lot of experience, some only in their early 50s. That was definitely a downside.”

When he moved to Monmouthshire County Council, Mr Jones noticed a “sea change” within local government, with the poor management he had seen in the 1970s replaced by “greater efficiency”.

Mr Jones became a communications officer – “The best job I ever had” – in 2010, having gained copywriting experience writing newsletters for the councils and unions.

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But councils have endured year-on-year funding cuts from governments in Wales and Westminster, putting further pressure on public services and the staff tasked with delivering them.

“I don’t think the public realise that councils deliver hundreds of services, and the workload has only increased,” said Mr Jones.

“You see very few people merely just doing their job these days. Whether its road sweepers, teachers, planners, social workers, they all go the extra mile.

“I firmly promise not be one of those who says it wasn’t like that in my day because I recognise the pressure that local government has been under for the last 10 years.”

In his retirement, Mr Jones plans to keep active by walking, cycling and swimming, while pursuing lifelong hobbies such as reading, cooking, brewing beer, and growing vegetables.

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But there will also be time to catch up with the many old friends amassed over four decades of public service.

“I’m proud to have served the public for over 45 years,” said Mr Jones.

“In my time in local government I’ve met some wonderful colleagues, well into the thousands, who I’ve never taken for granted, and it’ll be a shock to leave them.

“If I hadn’t expunged them from my memory, I could probably count those with whom I wouldn’t willingly share a pint on the fingers of one hand!”