Public Interest News Journalists: 13: Piers Meyler, local democracy reporter, EssexLive

Piers is the local democracy reporter for Essex and his work centres around holding top tier council authorities in Essex to account.

As well as reporting on council finances and holding Essex County Council to account over its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Piers has given a voice to communities threatened by huge developments, disabled residents affected by closures of high streets and shined a light on the issue of modern day slavery by restaurant owners.

Piers’ stories have kept residents informed about what is happening in their areas so they can get involved in planning processes etc. He has made councils reconsider their approach to socially distanced funerals, whether closing high streets is good for everyone and his coverage of the plan to close several libraries across the county resulted in a council U-turn.

One nomination read: “He owns council coverage in the Essex area and is the go to person for ECC news. Piers is not afraid to challenge what the council says to him, and to argue with councillors if he thinks they’re not being totally frank and up front with him.

“Blazing rows with press officers were a regular affair when in the office. Piers always wants to tell the story as it should be told — not in the way that the council or a councillor suggests it should be. It is for this reason that his stories dominate the Essex Chronicle and Brentwood Gazette every week.

“Quite simply, Piers has been one of a very small number of journalists to hold our council to account. His coverage has been the most consistent. “

He was first to break the news about a new festival coming to the city of Chelmsford and to spot an application for a set of ‘outdoor dining pods’ in a pub, a theme that attracts a guaranteed digital audience. He also broke the news that a temporary mortuary was to take over a park and ride car park at the height of the pandemic.

Piers has had stories go national. His piece about Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan’s run in with the council about a footpath near their home was published in several national titles, and was a piece that any tabloid reporter would have wished they were first to.

But at the heart of his agenda are the issues that matter to local residents the most. Piers understands the back story to the biggest issues, from spats between councillors to the redevelopment of the Army and Navy flyover in Chelmsford. Piers has a level of experience that only comes from years in the job.alan



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