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Leeds City Council is starting to speak your language

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Leeds city Council is launching a ‘plain English’ campaign as it seeks to engage more people in local politics and decision-making.

The overhaul will see council reports cutting out jargon, and written shorter and with more clarity.

Council meetings will also be made more accessible, and the public more easily able to speak at them.

Area committees, which deal with grass-roots decision-making and funding, will be re-named Community Committees and will have a simpler format.

Bosses admit that, although the re-think has been in the planning for a while, the success of Ukip – and a seemingly widespread disillusionment with politics – has made it even more important to start 
speaking the language of the people better. The changes will be rubber-stamped at the council’s annual meeting today.

James Rogers, assistant chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “The corporate language, the very bland agendas that we have, the details of the reports that we write - they are not conducive to getting people interested.

“The whole concept is about trying to turn that on its head; get more people involved, express it through a new brand and very local imagery that people recognise, and do it in a language and a way that people feel they are able to engage with, rather than something they don’t really understand.”

He admitted that attendance at public meetings is poor, and “not many people would be able to tell you” what area committees actually do.

He added: “They do lots of good work for communities, but they haven’t really got an identity with local people.”

The new drive will also see one-stop centres - which provide most of the council’s face-to-face services – “broadening out” into genuine community hubs.

There will also be a focus on using social media better to promote the work of the city 
council.

“There are so many different ways we can engage people, we have got to utilise them,” Mr Rogers said.

Councillor Peter Gruen, the council’s chief spokesman on neighbourhood matters, said: “To become a more pro-active local democracy, we need to communicate better with 
residents.

“The real difficulty is people are apathetic – how do we get them contributing?

“If there’s something controversial that people are against, they will engage.

“But we want to talk to people, get their ideas on positive things, because it’s about their neighbourhood.”

He said more responsibility, and more finance, would be delegated to the “frontline” of community engagement.

He acknowledged the ‘Ukip factor’ had “tapped in” where traditional politics may have 
failed.

But he stressed the council needs to promote more the grass-roots work it does.

“We don’t sell that sufficiently as a message,” he said.

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