Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Councils get banned jargon list

Winston Churchill in 1929
Winston Churchill is an example to council workers, campaigners say

Council leaders have compiled a banned list of the 200 worst uses of jargon, with "predictors of beaconicity" and "taxonomy" among the worst horrors.

The Local Government Association says such words and phrases must be avoided for staff to "communicate effectively".

Cliches such as "level playing field" and inscrutable terms like "re-baselining" have been prohibited.

LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: "The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases."

Local and central government are often criticised for their use of language.

'Coterminous, stakeholder engagement'

The LGA's list includes suggested translations of some terms, such as "measuring" for the civil servant's favourite "benchmarking", "idea" for "seedbed", "delay" for "slippage" and "buy" for "procure".

For most, though, no explanation is forthcoming or, perhaps, possible.

Town hall workers are urged not to use the words "mainstreaming", "holistic", "contestability" and "synergies".

SOME OF THE WORST
Blue sky thinking
Can do culture
Coterminosity
Double devolution
Horizon scanning
Improvement levers
Pathfinder
Potentialities
Quantum
Revenue Streams
Subsidiarity
Symposium
Thinking outside of the box
Value-added
Source: LGA

The French word "tranche", meaning "slice" in conventional English, is also banned.

Ms Eaton said: "Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead?

"During the recession, it is vital that we explain to people in plain English how to get access to the 800 different services that local government provides with taxpayers' money.

"Councils have a duty, not only to provide value for money to local people, but also to tell people what they get for the tax they pay. People would be furious if they have no idea of what services their cash is paying for and how they should get to use them."

'Gobbledegook'

She added: "Unless information is given to people to explain what help they can get during a recession then it could well lead to more people ending up homeless or bankrupt.

"If a council fails to explain what it does in plain English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them or why they should bother to turn out and vote.

"We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide."

A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman said: "This gobbledegook has to go. Jargon has its place within professions but it should not be allowed to leak out to the public, as it causes confusion.

"It could even be used to cover up something more sinister. Churchill and Einstein were both plain speakers and they did OK. Councils should follow their lead."



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SEE ALSO
7 questions on council jargon
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LGA banned words - full list
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Decoding local government lingo
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Why do councils love jargon?
08 Feb 08 |  Magazine

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