Why Essex's Local Democracy Reporter breaks vital council stories – Essex Live
From new tube stations to councillor misconduct, our coverage cuts through the noise on behalf of ordinary people.
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Local authorities have huge impacts on the lives of ordinary people, with access to budgets of millions of pounds worth of taxpayer’s money.
It is therefore vital that the Essex public knows what goes on behind closed council chamber doors and that elected members of all political persuasions are held to account.
The BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporting Service was set up to report on the regular business of local councils and other democratic institutions or public bodies.
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The eyes and ears of the public, reporters attend council meetings to communicate key decisions as soon as they are made. With one of us present in the room, councillors know their decisions will be witnessed by the public.
For example, in Harlow, I attended cabinet meetings where the biggest programme of regeneration in the town’s history was up for debate. The administration is making big promises about their plans, including possibly building a tube station in the town, and because of my coverage the public will know of its successes and failures.
In combination with my report, I cover these meetings live on social media, providing an additional entry point for readers to find out about what went on.
In addition to decisions made by councillors, LDRs also scrutinise their conduct.
Brought to my attention by “dismayed” residents and businesses in Maldon, I reported on homophobic remarks made by a town councillor, and the district council’s response.
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Impartiality, a core value for the service given its BBC origins, was also upheld. Contact was made with the accused councillor so that he had the opportunity to defend himself.
But it’s not just those in power that fill our stories.
After my report that Stansted Airport would be expanding to 43 million passengers per year, I drove round the district speaking to residents about their experiences living so close to one of the busiest international airports in the country.
The result was a feature detailing these views, ensuring even in big decisions with national scope, ordinary people are not forgotten.
Accessible to over a thousand of media titles for free, the LDRS is supporting local journalism, cutting through the noise on behalf of residents.