Plain English Campaign Slam Isle of Wight Council

Those tasked with producing reports for the IWC get slammed by the Plain English Campaign for using gobbledygook and unnecessary acronyms.

Oh dear. According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, it looks as though the Isle of Wight Council recently received a roasting from the Plain English Campaign.

Plain English Campaign Slam Isle of Wight CouncilApparently a report produced by the IWC has been branded ‘baffling gobbledygook’ by the Campaign who go on to say that it ‘lets the Isle of Wight Council down’.

The document, which promotes the Adult Learning Plan, contains as many as 16 different acronyms and such confusing jargon, that it’d be highly surprising if anyone could grasp what the report was about.

If this weren’t bad enough, Labour Cllr Debrorah Gardiner had urged the IWC not to publish the report saying, “I think none of you have actually read this report if you are prepared for this to go out to the general public.

“I read this and simply could not understand it. Get it re-written in a language people can actually understand.”

Come again?
One of our favourites in the report was the description of the Train to Gain programme:

“The programme has been well received within the Isle of Wight Council with recent pilot with leisure staff leading to the future expectation of this would be to have this project open to all departments of the council and have people directly referred through self referral and the PDR cycle.”


Chrissie Maher OBE who is the founder of the Plain English Campaign, told the Telegraph, “For a successful ‘Train to Gain’ project they should speak plain to keep sane.”

Hear hear!

Confusion halts reporting
We’ve been baffled ourselves in the past when reading documents from the IW Council.

Take for example the delegated decision report on whether to ‘reduce discounts on the Cowes Chain Ferry Vouchers’.

We’d planned to cover this item on VB but got so confused by the wording of the proposal, that we weren’t entirely sure what exactly the IWC were proposing to do.

Anyway, see what you think when you read the full article on the Telegraph Web site.

Image: a r b o

Tuesday, 5th May, 2009 1:47pm



Filed under: Isle of Wight Council, Media

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. Let’s see if we can’t decipher the chain ferry report. OK there’s a whole load of repetitive guff at the start. But skip to the end, it’s not that complicated really. Here’s an extract:

    Option 1 – Implement the reduction in discount on Chain Ferry travel vouchers as per the medium term budget strategy.

    Option 2 – Do not implement the reduction in discount on Chain Ferry travel vouchers and instruct officers to identify other means of saving £80,000.

    The Cabinet Members are requested to decide which option to implement.

    Extract ends.

    And FYI, the result was recorded here:

    Option 2 was chosen. So if you use the chain ferry for your vehicle, that’s good news for you. If you don’t, and pay council tax, you’re going to be subsidising those who do.

    • Guess that if reading double or triple negative clauses is natural to you, you must work for the council and are fluent in such nonsense.

      To “not implement the reduction in discount,” isn’t the kind of language structure normal people use.

      Check list :-
      Discount – Understood. Pay less money.
      Reduction in Discount – Fuzzy. End up paying more money than was originally envisaged, but still pay less money. Probably.
      Not implement the Reduction in Discount – What?!? So the full Discount is to be implemented? Confused.

      It’s all a bit like negative growth really meaning a loss.

      So does “Not implement the Reduction in Discount,” mean the discount will stand as it it? If so, why not just say that?

      Is it right that the public should have to spend their time decoding things to this extent to try and understand what is being decided on their behalf?

  2. Yes, we’re not total idiots, the point was that we had to read, re-read and re-read again before making sense of it.

  3. The Bishop

    5.May.2009 4:13pm

    Given you jump to the defence of the council at every opportunity, I guess the role of defending them on v-blog must be in your job description Drone. Either that or you’re blinkered to the fact that even the council make mistakes sometimes.

  4. My words are my own – nobody pays me to defend the council. Wish they did – and that I was paid by the word. I’d never be out of work. As it is I don’t imagine the council knows or cares what this humble drone does online. Hmm.

  5. The issue is not whether we recipients of this twaddle are capable of deciphering it, given enough effort. The point is that this is indicative of the mindset of those who run the council. They either wish to be obtuse, or they have muddled thinking. Either way they should not be in charge of our affairs.

    As a barrister friend once told me ‘Obtuse legal language is not because we lawyers don’t know how to write plain English. It’s so that you lot don’t understand what we are doing and put us out of a job’.

  6. adrian nicholas

    6.May.2009 4:49pm

    while, i’m sure that most people would like an end to bastardised american marketing lingo which seems to have become tied to bourgeoise lifestyle dialectical and professional focus group istinctions, neither would the Daily Telegraph apposite unless a return to latin or classical greek would receive preference and the other end of establishment spoken ‘culture’.

    Since, both are examples of pretentious official of traditional b*ll*cks-surely modern text kids text speak is honest and descriptive and lacks the favoured nuances and double meanings that lawyers , legal departments can further fleece joe public.

    • Blimey, Adrian, let’s see now ‘… bourgeoise lifestyle dialectical and professional focus group istinctions…’ er, right. and ‘…neither would the Daily Telegraph apposite…’

      You don’t work for the IOW council do you? ’cause if you don’t, I think they have a job just waiting for you.

  7. Fabian Wayman-Hales

    7.May.2009 1:44pm

    Is anyone else interested in becoming an Advanced Adept of the Honorable and Ancient Association for the Absolute Abolition of All Arcane and Abstruse Acronyms? You’d be entitled to put the letters AAHAAAAAAAA after your name

    • Not sure if it was a reflection of the district he was in, but ‘a red-faced Steve Beynon’ is not a concept many will be familiar with. Surprised there was not a suggestion that it was the IW population that were intellectually challenged and unable to comprehend the ‘clear’ document. (Cue standard spiel about school reorganisation and improving standards.)

      The perceived down side of clear documents, for officers, may be that the councillors will be able to read them and challenge officers.

    • Heh. Now that one IS gibberish. Great quotes in the Observer article. Especially ironic that it was an educational document.

    • I like “staff were now being reminded of the need to make sense”. That would certainly be a start!

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