A COUNCILLOR asked me the other day why the Daily Echo had been so anti the plan for the creation of a conurbation super council. We haven’t I told him.

The elected member from Bournemouth made the mistake of assuming that because we have published numerous stories about opposition to the unitary proposal by some who believed it was not in the best interests of their electors, that we backed their cause.

This individual had clearly not read any of the opinion columns we had written offering the view that some aspects of the current system were clearly unsustainable and even if they were, they had never made any sense.

Two small unitaries like Poole and Bournemouth, sitting side by side and duplicating staff and services for the past 20 years, for example.

Or the more than 300 councillors across Dorset, many with little to do in the cabinet-style system of local government.

Some of these columns were published way before the then four leaders of Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset met in early 2015 to discuss a radical shake up of Dorset’s council structure as the only way of solving the looming financial crisis and tackling the challenges of devolution.

And let’s at least congratulate those council leaders (three are still in place) for opening up a debate that should have happened a long time ago.

No, our agenda in this whole process has been (and continues to be) holding to account those elected to represent us and providing a platform for their ideas and proposals to be scrutinised.

With LGR (Local Government Review) this has been in large part about the public consultation, its transparency, the way it was conducted and how much, if at all, it was skewed and biased. Clearly some people had an issue with the preparation, the ground rules, the process and the results.

It has also been important to examine the motivations of those involved.

I say this after hearing opinions such as that of a senior council officer who described the man who threatened to fund a judicial review of the LGR process as “a f***** k***”.

Or a leading pro-merger councillor who offered the view that members of Christchurch Council were “a bunch of f****** nutters”.

Holding public officials to account is more challenging than ever.

Newsrooms are smaller than at anytime - the newspaper industry is changing, as are many others.

At the same time public bodies like local authorities, health trusts, quangos and the police are putting more resources into trying to set their communications agendas, spinning via social media and their own websites, keeping information out of the public eye, filtering messages and trying to control access to decision makers.

Many of the ‘Praetorian Guard’ press offices now style themselves as ‘news offices’ or ‘newsrooms’ clearly illustrating an ambition to fill what they perceive to be a vacuum left by traditional media. The number of communications officers in our local public bodies far outweighs the number of journalists working in the local media.

But while some in that traditional media may have less ambition to be a major, if not the most important part of the checks and balances in their local communities, that is not the case on Richmond Hill.

Which is why we continue to put more, not fewer resources into areas like council, health and court reporting. We are not in danger of losing the ability to hold people to account, to speak up for the powerless or battle on behalf of those stumbling around dazed and confused in ever more complex, impenetrable and unhelpful bureaucracies.

Some examples? Our coverage of the local government review. Of the flaws in the mental health system and the mirror we have been holding up to the county’s health managers over the Clinical Services Review. Or the financial issues at Borough of Poole.

Those in power will have noticed more troublemaking reporters at their meetings and on their case. (There were four Daily Echo journalists doing their duty in council chambers on Tuesday.) Hopefully we will be giving those in authority more sleepless nights.

And while so many people talk about the decline of local journalism and the effect on democracy, they forget in the digital age we reach a bigger audience than ever.

We are not simply interested in getting online clicks for car crashes and assaults.

Yes, there is plenty of battery life left in our torch, to shine into the growing number of dark corners and the fog of obfuscation.