Politician attacks Leeds Council officers for not using 'plain English' in reports

A senior Leeds politician has once again attacked Leeds City Council officers for not writing reports using “plain English”.

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 4:45 am

A plan for the “Leeds Best City Ambition” outlines the authority’s ambition to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change would be “driven by the three pillars of health”. Much of this work would be achieved through usage of “Team Leeds Accelerators”.

But a meeting of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board heard criticisms of how the report’s usage of abstract terms like “pillar” and “accelerator” could prove confusing for those who are not used to reading council documents.

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A meeting of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board heard criticisms of how the report’s usage of abstract terms

Coun Barry Anderson (Con) said: “It’s not written in plain English. I know what an accelerator is in terms of road safety, but what is an accelerator here?

“I am not convinced some members of the public totally understood what was in there. Not that the messages are wrong, but I am saying will the average person on the street understand the messages?”

Leeds City Council’s director of resources Neil Evans responded: “We have tried to take into account some of the feedback we have had around plain English, and we have moved away from “accelerator”, you’ll be glad to hear.

“We have taken that on board, no doubt as we move to a more public-facing, shorter document, we will have to have that focus on that.”

Speaking at the meeting, Leeds City Council leader James Lewis (Lab) added: “It is a radically new approach for us as a council and I think we will need to recognise the need to make it meaningful and to adjust our approach to make that happen.”

It follows pleas at a council scrutiny meeting last month, in which the report was criticised by members as “too opaque” for most people to understand.

In a report published by council officers, under the heading “what is a pillar?”, it explains that it is “the way we have chosen to group together our challenges and opportunities”.

It added: “There are big issues which are particularly challenging for us as a city. Making progress on there – to improve an entrenched problem or grasp an opportunity quickly – will need intensive, focused effort.

“The accelerators will represent an approach – one in which cross-city, cross-sector, cross-organisational groups of people will come together focused on a clear objective or outcome.”

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