Council wins nonsense award for repairs report

A BAFFLING use of the ­English language has again thrust Edinburgh council into the literary spotlight after it was awarded a gong for impenetrable prose.

Wednesday, 3rd December 2014, 12:00 pm
The council won an award for using jargon in the report. Picture: Kenny Smith
The council won an award for using jargon in the report. Picture: Kenny Smith

A city report into the shamed statutory repairs system has triumphed at the Golden Bull awards – a ceremony run by the Plain English Campaign that highlights the most mind-numbing ­written ­examples of gobbledygook in public office.

The report sets out how to clean up the service in the wake of a scandal but was dubbed “meaningless and contrived” by Golden Bull chiefs.

The statutory repairs system was suspended, then replaced in April last year, amid allegations staff were bribed by some contractors in exchange for lucrative repair jobs.

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Published in August, the document – called “Programme Momentum Progress Report” – provides an update on hundreds of disputed cases from the long-running saga that saddled the Capital with £30 million of debt.

Phrases such as “case review workstream”, “case review deliverables” and “work progressing on the re-programming and re-priorisation” are among the lowlights.

Steve Jenner, a spokesman for the Plain English Campaign – which previously presented the Evening News with an award for writing clearly – said the report was a classic example of “workplace jargon, employment jargon and council jargon all stirred together”.

He said: “It’s almost a case of pick any buzzword you can, throw them together, shake up the bag and see what you get.

“By the time you get to the end of the second sentence you’ve lost any sense of what the paragraph is about and by the end of the third you’ve lost the will to live.”

The ­Council has received the accolade after previously being shortlisted for a mystifying letter about ­ statutory repairs.

The Golden Bull Awards have been shaming authorities into “clear and concise” communication since 1979.

Mr Jenner said there was a serious point to the prizes, adding that corruption could hide “very easily” in confusing language. He added: “It seems that very little has been learned [from the statutory repairs scandal] if this is how they’re continuing to produce communications.”

Gordon Murdie, a chartered ­surveyor, who represents more than 200 clients affected by the statutory repairs controversy, said: “The use of meaningless, ­contrived management jargon in an attempt to obscure the unvarnished truth will never fool all of the people all of the time.

“When it reaches a masterclass level of nonsensical incomprehensibility, an award is well-deserved. ”

A council spokesman said: “This was an update report to councillors, who knew the background to it. However, we appreciate the need for clear language and will work hard to avoid any future awards.”