When it comes to Making a Difference in your community, you know you can trust the Sunderland Echo.
This is Local Newspaper Week, the annual celebration of the part local newspapers and their partner websites play in keeping their communities reliably informed with the latest news, sport and adverts.
This year’s theme is Making a Difference, highlighting the role your local paper plays in reporting the news that matters to you and your family.
From councils to courts, whether it be in the pages of the paper or on our popular website www.sunderlandecho.com, we’re there day in, day out, first with the big stories.
We have followed the unfolding crisis in Sunderland City Council’s Children’s services department closely.
A damming report by Ofsted in July 2015 placed the children’s services and safeguarding departments into special measures when they were deemed inadequate.
The Echo has highlighted the scandal and monitored the establishment of a new company take charge of children’s services across the city.
We have also held the authority to account by reporting on a series of serious case reviews into its handling of child protection cases.
It’s true that justice should not just be done, it should be seen to be done, and we play a vital role in ensuring you know what is happening in the courts.
The Echo played a key role in highlighting the story of a commended police officer with more than 20 years’ service who was jailed for two years for helping a drugs gang.
Pc Gary Christie passed confidential police information to convicted cocaine dealer Asa Dobbing.
After a three-day trial at Teesside Crown Court, Christie, 42, of Silksworth Lane, Sunderland, was acquitted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs but convicted of misconduct in public office.
The Sunderland Echo is the only newspaper regularly covering Sunderland Magistrates Court and reporting on how people committing crimes on your doorstep are dealt with - people such as serial nuisance Mark Herron , convicted for his 476th alcohol-related offence. ADVERTISING The 50-year-old, who frequently attends police stations in a bid to be arrested and get a bed for the night, did not attend Sunderland Magistrates’ Court had already notched up 280 convictions for 475 offences when he found himself in trouble yet again.
In fact, prosecutor Laura Johnson told the court: “The record may not be up to date – I think there was a further matter of drunk and disorderly in the last fortnight.”
One of the most important roles of any newspaper is keeping an eye on our local services and we have used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover a wide range of issues of local concern.
Recently we revealed that cash-strapped Sunderland City Council was still chasing almost £14million in unpaid Council Tax at the end of the last financial year.
The council had taken 48,883 accounts to court for non-payment over the last three financial years, in a bid to recover a total of £17,926,564.66, and at the end of the 2015/16 financial year, the outstanding balance was £13.89million, though the authority had continued to receive outstanding payments and that arrears now stood at £9.7million.
Opposition group leader Coun Peter Wood said: “Non-payment of Council Tax is a serious matter and the council should do all it can to chase-up arrears.