Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 08:50 UK

Referendum question 'confusing'

Stoke Town Hall
The referendum is due to take place on 23 October

A 41-word question, asking voters in Stoke-on-Trent if they want an elected mayor, has been criticised for being too confusing.

The Plain English Campaign said the sentence was too long and voters could be unclear over what they were voting for.

The government said the wording of the question was set in law.

It said it was looking at changing it, although it might not happen in time for the referendum, on 23 October.

Residents across the city will go to the polls over whether to continue having an elected mayor.

Are you in favour of the proposal for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be run in a new way, which includes a councillor, who will be elected by the councillors of Stoke-on-Trent to lead the council and the community which it serves?
Referendum question

The government told the city earlier this year it needed to change its existing system where the elected mayor and chief executive make all decisions.

Instead, the council was offered the option of an elected mayor with a cabinet or an elected council leader with a cabinet.

The referendum question which will be put to voters is: "Are you in favour of the proposal for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be run in a new way, which includes a councillor, who will be elected by the councillors of Stoke-on-Trent to lead the council and the community which it serves?"

'Sound pompous'

Marie Clair, of the Plain English Campaign, said important documents had to be made as clear as possible.

She said: "This is the problem with council and government documents.

"They feel they need to sound pompous and official-sounding, but they are serving the people and they just want to be told things in a straightforward way."

A spokesman from the Communities and Local Government Office said the current questions had been in place since 2001.

"As required by statute we are currently consulting the Electoral Commission on the questions and are proposing to update them.

"We will have careful regard to the Electoral Commission's advice which we hope to receive in time for revised questions to be in place, subject to Parliamentary approval by late October/ early November," he said.

If the city votes yes to the elected leader system, it will be installed from May 2009.


SEE ALSO
Referendum campaign groups set up
15 Sep 08 |  Staffordshire
Referendum over city's government
11 Sep 08 |  Staffordshire
Opponents 'would need law change'
27 Jul 08 |  Staffordshire
City chief defends quit decision
24 Jul 08 |  Staffordshire
Quitting council boss criticised
23 Jul 08 |  Staffordshire
Mayor 'No' vote would be ignored
19 Jun 08 |  Staffordshire

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