Thursday, 4 December 2008

"From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document"

I've got fed up of waiting for Future Shape Programme Director Richard Grice to get back to the Plain English Campaign to explain himself. Last night's meeting is out of the way, and the cabinet have embarked on the next phase of Future Shape - spending £250,000 and six months to examine the outsourcing model in more detail. So Richard Grice couldn't give two hoots about whether the documents he produces are comprehensible to the citizens of Barnet?

I'll publish again the Plain English Campaign's damning assessment of the Future Shape report (emphasis added):

"I think your suggestion that the council is planning to introduce outsourcing is correct although when they couch their plans in such gobbledygook, it is hard to be certain.

"Paragraph 4.3 seems to suggest that they are thinking of using 'organisations other than the Council' while paragraph 5.3 suggests staff could be transferred to other employers. And, the Council also seems to have considered the legal implications of what it is doing.

"In answer to your question about whether it is in plain (enough) English to serve the public interest, the answer is definitely not. From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document. It is so full of jargon and management speak that the message is hard to find. It is quite possible to write complicated stuff like this in plain English - in fact, as everyone is entitled to receiving information in plain English, it should be common practice to write clearly.

"Whether the Council is writing in this style to try to disguise what it is considering, or whether it is just a case of not thinking about the residents of the borough I can't say. What I would do however is ask for the information in an appropriate style so that you, and all the other residents of the borough, are aware of quite major changes that could affect the way your council is run. And, as there seem to be huge implications for staff, I am sure they particularly need to be kept notified of what is happening."

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