Ellis Butcher has been the Local Democracy Reporter for South Cumbria since October 2018. He is one of 150 reporters across the UK working in the BBC-funded role to help fill a gap in the coverage of local democracy issues. As the initiative celebrates its first birthday, he gives his personal opinion of the role.

IT TAKES a strange kind of journalist to be a Local Democracy Reporter.

You will need to be happy spending your days at wonky Press tables stuffed into the far corners of Victorian town halls in grand chambers with appalling acoustics.

You will rack up hours in wood-panelled committee rooms, translating well-meaning gasbags, reticent council officers and committee Spocks who strangle the English language.

You will become fluent in the arcane processes and archaic oaths of local government, which deters so many of the general public from taking part in the democratic process.

“Nem con…non-statutory…sine die…point of orders…notice on motion…standing deputies…casting votes…adjacent amenities…curtilages…localities…material considerations.”

You will record the high drama and the slow grinding gears of municipal machinery. Its twists, turns, bun-fights, sideshows and Punch and Judy political rows. Planning disputes, budget struggles, legal wrangles, slip-ups and jobs boosts.

In the chamber, you will be welcomed as a friend but regarded as a fly in the ointment. Chief executives may swerve you. Cabinet members will try to charm you. Press officers will blow hot and cold.

You will not care. You will have the hide of a rhino and the hearing of a long-eared bat to catch those distant mumbles in the far corner of the chamber which can transform a down-page nib into a sure-fire splash.

You will derive pleasure from conducting swift autopsies on fat agendas to dig up diamonds. Your diary will fill with endless meetings, which drag on long past lunch, tea, supper and sundown – but you will not wilt.

You’ll stay to the death to record 11th-hour knife-edge votes and attempt to cover it all with depth that newspapers stopped providing years ago.

You will file copy from glass palaces, coffee houses, remote laybys and jazz-tastic hotel lounges – anywhere you can get decent wi-fi before the deadline.

Just like local councillors, you will miss your children, your partner, TV dramas and crucial football games.

But you will not flinch because you will be able to tell your grandchildren: “I did it all in the name of democracy.”

The first LDR started work this time last year. Since then reporters have filed nearly 50,000 stories on important local issues in England, Wales and Scotland.

Any recognised news provider can apply to be part of the partnership.

As of a few weeks ago, 100 media organisations are now signed up to the scheme.

Local Democracy Reporters produce copy to certain editorial standards; publishing their material to a central system, which is then made available to every outlet signed up to the scheme.

The core work of the LDRs is to provide impartial coverage of local councils and other public bodies, such as NHS trusts. The aim is to ensure the work of those making decisions on behalf of communities receives adequate media scrutiny and coverage

The reporters are paid for by the BBC but employed by contract holders such as a local newspaper.

The scheme is due to be rolled out to Northern Ireland this year.