Councils told to cut jargon

COUNCILS were told today to cut out 200 jargon words such as "revenue stream", "stakeholder' and "incentivising' so that ordinary people can understand them.

COUNCILS were told today to cut out 200 jargon words such as "revenue stream", "stakeholder' and "incentivising' so that ordinary people can understand them.

Business-speak phrases like "predictors of beaconicity' and "holistic governance' are off the menu if council workers want to make sense to taxpayers, the Local Government Association said.

They have compiled a list of words and phrases that councils should eliminate from their vocabulary.

Instead of "across-the-piece' they should say "everyone working together' rather then say "actioned' they should simply use the word, "do'.

Workers should not "facilitate' they should "help' and instead of "fast-tracking' something they should just "speed it up'

Certain words are so meaningless they can be discarded altogether according to the LGA. The culprits include; contestability, synergies and cascading.

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Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor Margaret Eaton, said: "The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead?

"During the recession, it is vital that we explain to people in plain English how to get access to the eight hundred different services that local government provides with taxpayers' money.

"Councils have a duty, not only to provide value for money to local people, but also to tell people what they get for the tax they pay. People would be furious if they have no idea of what services their cash is paying for and how they should get to use them.

"Unless information is given to people to explain what help they can get during a recession then it could well lead to more people ending up homeless or bankrupt. If a council fails to explain what it does in plain English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them or why they should bother to turn out and vote.

"We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide.'

Joanna Hannam, Head of Communications and Customer Service at Norfolk County Council, said: "We are all in favour of this - no one likes jargon. It makes things hard to read and difficult to understand. Unfortunately plain English is easy to say and difficult to achieve - and sadly, but quite rightly, we are sometimes picked up for sinning.

“However we genuinely keep trying. We have our own guide for staff and we also hold frequent training courses.

"That being said, looking at the LGA's naughty words list, the day I see a Norfolk County Council report with 'predictors of beaconicity' in it is the day I think we'll have to throw in the towel! I wonder which council it was?"

Marie Clair, spokesperson for the Plain English Campaign said: "We are very pleased. The more jargon that gets done away with the more space there is for plain English.'

She said that many of the words on the list were used to mean different things in different situations.

"We call them rubber words because they can be stretched whichever way you want to and then they bounce back at you. It is a good thing if we can get people to stop and think what word to use and what they actually want to say. It is about capturing your meaning so that it can't be twisted round and there are no question marks left at the end.'