County needs more straight talking

THIS week’s revelations about Suffolk’s proposed reforms seem to have stirred up a real hornet’s nest – but frankly the leadership at Endeavour House really should not be surprised that we have finally translated their masterplan.

Because many of the elements have been floating around the council for months – it’s just that the council has done its best to distract everyone’s attention from what it is doing by abandoning the English language.

It has adopted the new language of “councilese” in a vain attempt to hide its true plans from the prying eyes of the general public.

Therefore don’t hear about privatising services or handing them over to charities.

We are told that in the council’s new strategic direction it aims to become an enabling authority divesting services to social enterprises.

Unless you are a very senior council officer, a union official, or a really serious council anorak that sounds like a load of gobbledegook.

And frankly this kind of obscure language has been on the rise among officials at Endeavour House over the last couple of years.

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I suspect it isn’t really creeping in just to keep the council’s real intentions hidden from an unsuspecting public – that really would be too Machiavellian.

The real problem, I suspect, is simple laziness among those at the top of the organisation. They are using jargon that they have invented, or developed from other authorities, and expect the rest of the world to understand them.

If we don’t then that’s our look out – and if we don’t know instantly what an enabling authority is then we shouldn’t expect to be enabled!

The arrival of Andrea Hill seemed to begin this change. The senior leadership of the county now is much more self-focussed than it was in the past.

It is struggling with major changes – but instead of speaking directly to the media about them, everything is handled by an increasingly under-seige communications department.

And the more layers that are introduced in the process of disseminating information, the less clear it becomes.

What is especially concerning is the number of councillors who don’t really understand what the “new strategic direction” is all about or where it will be leading.

I’ve heard several councillors and council officials talking about job losses of up to 30-35 per cent over the next few years and when I’ve asked them: “30 per cent of what?” I’m told it is of non-schools staff – which total about 12,000 at the county council.

Yet when I then said in my article that up to 4,000 posts could be lost over a period of years, I had council officials ringing me at 8.30am the next day to say they didn’t recognise that figure and had never seen it written down.

When I explained it was a fairly simple calculation (30-35pc of 12,000 is between 3,600 and 4,200) I was told “Oh, I see what you’re getting at.”

Now after a year of the council talking about the new strategic direction and increasingly apocalyptic memos being sent out from senior officers, the county still seems reluctant to give straight answers to very important questions.