Aisha Iqbal: Plain English politics? It’s not just gobbledegook!

STRAIGHT TALKERS: These press officers from Pendle Council won a Plain English award. Could Leeds council learn from them? PHOTO: Andrew Smith

I remember a few years back Leeds council launched a plain English drive to help reach out to ordinary Loiners better both in public meetings and documents. But we seem to be slipping back, at least that’s the impression I get sometimes.

One of my pet hates is the word ‘obsession’, which I constantly hear being thrown around at Leeds Civic Hall instead of the word ‘priority’.

Another culprit is the propensity for sticking the words ‘Best Council Ambition’ in front of every policy aim to try and push home how important it is.

Yes, we want you to be obsessed with making our city the best it can be, but that’s your job! The unnecessary twisting of semantics really grates with me.

But then, I guess I am more exposed to it on an everyday basis than most due to my job as a Local Government reporter.

One of the biggest issues, of course, is the over use of jargon in council reports and documents.

It’s an age old tale of red-tape lingo, but with the constant talk of wanting to reach grass roots communities (another jargonny mega-culprit) a starting point would be to get back to language basics.

The recent success of populist politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump would suggest the public is crying out for some real talk. I remember a senior councillor raising the matter, when he pleaded with council officers to stop talking “gobbledegook” and “talk in language that makes sense”.

It’s all about words, ultimately, and the council would probably benefit from heeding those particular ones.

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