TODAY I return to a familiar theme, that of local councils, the media, transparency and accountability.

I do this for a couple reasons.

One, it has been an interesting week from a local authority perspective.

And two, I am looking for someone. A local democracy reporter to be precise. So yes, this column is in part a job advert.

Let’s start from the point that there are fewer journalists around to report what local councils are up to.

And let’s accept that there are more people working in communications for councils trying to set agenda and that politicians will try to get away with things if they are not scrutinised properly, as indeed will officers.

The arbitrary decision by Christchurch chief executive, David McIntosh, to ban the press and public (including the local Member of Parliament, Christopher Chope) from Thursday night’s referendum was an astonishing affront to local democracy.

His rationale to me during the evening was, if I let you in, where do I draw the line?

To which the only answer is, you don’t draw a line because we live in a democracy, not in Zimbabwe or the chief executive’s personal fiefdom.

His casual disregard for the point that only people associated with the council were allowed into the room was hugely illuminating.

“You think you do a better job of scrutinising the process than councillors do you?” was his response.

I said I thought his ban was a disgrace.

He said our story about the ban was a disgrace.

You can make up your own mind.

And from a public relations point of view it was a text book example of how to score an own goal, despite subsequent attempts at damage limitation.

His decision was greeted with some surprise by a number of councillors, who to their credit challenged the decision during the evening.

We did not call into question the way the count itself was run (although how could we as we could not observe it) merely that excluding press and public was anti-democratic, ill judged and simple plain wrong.

A council statement quoted two councillors as saying they were satisfied. So that’s alright then.

Be that as it may, this is but one example in our local authorities.

There have been many others and we have reported on them in our role as a watchdog on behalf of all the communities.

They are a matter of record.

As I have said before we cover as many council meetings and read as many official reports as possible. It’s our job. And we welcome as much inside information as comes our way.

It’s impossible to keep on top of every issue in every council but help is on its way.

We’re looking to recruit a local democracy reporter. Our sister paper the Dorset Echo is doing the same.

This unique scheme is designed to increase coverage and scrutiny of local authorities across the UK with 40 positions being created.

Funded by the BBC and run by media publishers, the reporters will help in?depth coverage of our local authorities.

The key aim will be to ensure deeper scrutiny of the way our local government institutions operate, decisions they make and how they spend public money.

And to shine more light in the dark corners of town halls run by secretive politicians who believe, wrongly that they can get away with more.

Applicants for the role must have been NCTJ-qualified for at least two years.

You can email me to find out more about the position which is being advertised nationally.

You’ll find I have strong views about local government, democracy, decision making and accountability!

n Please send your CV and a covering letter to

Deadline for applications is Monday 8th January 2018.