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Core message or main point, undertaken or done? Should County Hall cut down on jargon?

PUBLISHED: 08:31 05 December 2018

Liberal Democrat Steffan Aquarone has said Norfolk County Council needs to be clearer in its consultations Pic: Dan Grimmer

Liberal Democrat Steffan Aquarone has said Norfolk County Council needs to be clearer in its consultations Pic: Dan Grimmer

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Successfully deciphering what might be implemented as a result of a council consultation can sometimes prove problematic.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in NorwichNorfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich

Whether it is re-imagining a service, re-evaluating possibilities or undertaking in accordance, breaking the code of councils is far from the simplest of tasks.

However, a councillor is appealing to County Hall to tone down “jargon and councilese” to make it easier for people to make their voices heard.

A motion to be tabled next week is calling for officers to make consultations easier for the layman to follow.

It has been proposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Steffan Aquarone, who said he feared council documents were becoming too jargonised.

Martha Smith-Cordiner, two, daughter of councillor Mike Smith-Clare, Labour lead for children and young people, protesting against the closure of children's centres. More than 4,000 people took part in the public consultation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMartha Smith-Cordiner, two, daughter of councillor Mike Smith-Clare, Labour lead for children and young people, protesting against the closure of children's centres. More than 4,000 people took part in the public consultation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He said: “The terms used often make me want to pull my hair out. I think recent publications have left much to desire in terms of the level of information they provide, which can cause confusion and anger.

“I think there is only a certain type of person that would be willing to fill out a 90-minute questionnaire - for example - and we need to think about how best to communicate with people at ground level.”

Mr Aquarone said his comments particularly related to the recent consultation into the county’s children’s services, which he felt did not make potential closures of Sure Start centres clear enough.

He said: “I think it is easy in some industries to get sucked into jargon, but after a stage terms like ‘re-imagining the service’ and ‘re-designing’ turn into euphemism.

“Some of the biggest businesses in the world employ some of the best brains to help them communicate in the simplest of ways, but the council is not doing this.”

Mr Aquarone added that he felt more effort should also be made to make it easier for people to participate, such as through mobile devices or in snap surveys.

He said: “As a council we need to take a fresh approach to make sure the people most affected by possible changes can have their say.”

The motion, which has been seconded by Lib Dem group leader Dan Roper, asks for a review of how it consults with the public and calls for the process to be stopped and restarted if any information is changed during the window.

It will be debated at full council on Monday, December 10.

Recent jargon

These are just a few phrases used in recent or current consultations that may prove difficult to decipher:

• Offering our help early to prevent and reduce demand for specialist services

• We are proposing to invest in community development and work closely with other community development teams in each district, including staff in our early years team, local councils and the voluntary sector.

• Norfolk County Council propose to make an order under the road traffic regulations act 1984, the effect of which on vehicles will be to prohibit waiting at any time in the lengths of Riverside Road

• A revised enforcement policy has now been produced which includes proposed changes arising from this year’s review, and to reflect recent changes to other legislation and guidance, including a new enforcement protocol for blue badge enforcement

• We will develop an integrated green infrastructure network that provides opportunities for all users

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