Local democracy reporter on the importance of journalism

Local democracy reporter Hannah Brown talks about the importance of journalism.

Local democracy reporter Hannah Brown talks about the importance of journalism. - Credit: HANNAH BROWN

Councils make decisions on things that impact everyone’s daily lives, from bin collections, to road maintenance, to deciding on new housing developments, to providing social care.

The local authorities’ remits are wide and are responsible for allocating and spending millions of pounds of public money.

Because of this it is important that someone is there to scrutinise the decisions, and report to the public on what authorities are deciding upon on the communities behalf.

This is where the Local Democracy Reporting Service comes in.

The BBC-funded scheme ensures there are journalists across the country dedicated to reporting on councils and other local authorities.

As the Local Democracy Reporter for Cambridgeshire, my job is to make sure that council documents are read, and to attend meetings so that important decisions are reported on and to make people aware of what councils are doing.

This can be things such as reporting on planning applications to share what decisions are being made to build new homes, offices and shops, and also covering where council funding is being spent.

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In a changing world, more recently it has also been important to show the challenges being faced by those choosing to work in a public position.

After the tragic killing of the Essex MP David Amess, I spoke to a number of councillors in Cambridgeshire, who shared their experiences facing abuse in their public role.

This included the leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Councillor Bridget Smith, who shared that abuse had become worse over recent years and that online abuse had led her to stop using one social media platform.

I took on this role at the start of October, and in my time working as a Local Democracy Reporter so far, I have seen the interest there is here in Cambridgeshire to know about what decisions council’s are making.

Reporting with impartiality – a core purpose of the role – is something I will continue to do to keep the public informed, as over 100 other Local Democracy Reporters will also continue to do across the country.

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