What services are the council responsible for?
They are responsible for services across the whole of a county which include:
- Social Services
- Roads and transport
- Waste disposal
- Economic development
- Countrywide planning and the environment
- Protecting the public
District, borough and city councils
Cover a smaller area than county councils, services include:
- Rubbish collection
- Leisure and amenities
- Collection of council tax
- Environmental health
- Planning permission
- Housing needs services
Parish and Town Councils
Parish or town councils are elected and can help on a number of local issues:
- Bus Shelters
- Children’s playgrounds
- Grants for local projects/organisations
- Halls for social clubs and meetings
- Parish lighting
- Recreation/sports fields
- Traffic calming measures
- War memorial maintenance
What do councillors do?
Day to-day running of services carried out by council officers/employees
The policy/decision makers are the locally elected councillors.
Councillors are usually elected under a political ticket ie Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem etc … Each major party has its own ‘group’ on the council which includes offices etc and employs admin staff and policy researchers
Approximately a third of the council is elected every year. There are no elections every fourth year.
A councillor’s term of office is usually four years before the seat is subject to elections again.
Councillors are democratically accountable to residents of the city and their ward. The overriding duty of councillors is to the whole community, but they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them.
How would you report on council?
- A principal role of local press is to hold council to account
- Attending council meetings
- Investigating through FOI requests
- Democracy sites
- Through local people’s campaigns and complaints
- Press releases, from council and political parties
What makes a good community reporter?
- Meetings do matter’- Every meeting will be discussing something that effects a section of the public.
- punctuality It will allow people to get to know your face and build a connection. Potential for more ‘off the record’ comments etc.
- Go beyond the press release and question agenda of every decision.
- Don’t re-hash and regurgitate news story, try to find a personal angle.
- Try be-friend local trade union leaders.
- Don’t neglect Parish councils.
- Read the minutes on council websites and local planning applications.
- Build direct contacts and get interviews.
- Utilise social media to gauge opinion and build contacts.
- Utilise ‘ Freedom of Information Act’ requests.
- Check ‘Hyperlocal’ websites.
Why is council reporting important?
- Report issues that affect the local community and raise local concerns.
- Unravel the jargon and lay out stories in layman’s terms for the public.
- To find out where tax payers money is being spent.
- Gives an insight into election candidates.
What happens when the ‘fourth estate’ fails to hold local authority and government to account?
They will knowingly or inadvertently get away with things. The public need to be informed.
Hold individuals to account.
Allows systematic failings to continue e.g. Grenfell Tower Block
Without reporting it, it can allow propaganda and PR to be spread.
Fix my street– Allows people to report local issues. Potentially a source of stories.
What do they know – Allows you to place Freedom of Information requests.
My society – Allows you to write to politicians for free.
They work for you – Gives MP details: what they voted for/against, recent appearances, who has contributed money to their campaigns etc.