Council jargon not encouraging public to engage in local government

daryl turner‘COUNCIL speak’ is doing little to encourage the public to engage with Dorset Council, according to some councillors.

Lyme Regis councillor Daryl Turner (pictured) told a meeting last week that too many documents were difficult to understand.

He picked on a cultural strategy document which he said was “full of classic council-speak throughout”.

“People are not going to read page after page of this sort of stuff,” he told the People and Health Overview Committee during an online meeting, viewed live by a maximum of eight people on Tuesday.

He said he looked forward to a shorter, more accessible version, which is being planned.

But others supported the formal language of the paper, claiming the way it was written was necessary to meet the needs of other organisation which might be prepared to fund Dorset projects – but needed the policies in place, in unambiguous language.

Brief holder Cllr Jill Haynes said “it is a bit dry and a lot of words”, but she said it needed to be written that way.

Other councillors seemed to want the document to be even longer, with Cllr Stella Jones saying that schools and young people seemed to be largely missing from it, while Cllr Toni Coombs said that big events such as the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival were not mentioned.

Others said that the Dorset countryside should also have received wider recognition for its cultural importance.

Cllr Coombs said: “I am struggling to find what the aim is; what we are trying to get out of this. I do understand it is trying to be a broad-brush document, but it’s trying to be something for everybody, and the overall message is lost.”

Councillors were told that the document was aimed at bringing together the Dorset Council approach to the help and funding it offers other organisations to arrange arts, culture and heritage events, for which the authority has an annual budget of around £600,000.

The 2021-26 policy document is design to guide partner organisations in how to ensure their requests for funding meet Dorset Council objectives.

In the words of the report: “The scope of the project was to develop a new strategy that will not only inform how Dorset Council will support the sector in the future but also how organisations can work together to provide a more collaborative approach to cultural provision across the county.

“It is anticipated that the strategy will not only be adopted by the Council but that other cultural sector delivery organisations will align their business plans with the priorities of the new strategy in order to attract external investment and maximise partnership opportunities over the next 5 years and beyond.”

Committee chairman Cllr Andrew Kerby said he shared Cllr Turner’s view about the language of many council documents, but said that the cultural strategy document was an important one and could help Dorset find a way out of the COVID pandemic year.

Woodmead Halls

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