A group which campaigns for better use of English by public bodies has accused two police forces of using gobbledegook to bury bad news.
Plain English Campaign (PEC) officials said a joint statement issued by Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police about proposed changes to the way checks are carried out on gun owners was one of the worst examples of “corporate managementspeak” they had seen.
A Hertfordshire police spokeswoman defended the statement, saying it was “clear” and chiefs were not burying bad news.
The statement, issued on Wednesday by Hertfordshire’s “Corporate Communication Dept”, was 351 words long and began: “Collaborative initiatives between Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary have succeeded in delivering enhanced services, whilst realising considerable efficiencies in a number of areas.”
Planned changes to gun checks were not mentioned until the 75th word. They were outlined within a 91-word paragraph which was nine lines long.
Essex Police, who are planning similar changes in an effort to save money, explained their proposals in the two-line statement: “We are moving towards renewal notices by post rather than the current practice of making personal visits. the move is currently under consultation.”
A PEC spokeswoman said: “We laugh about gobbledegook but this isn’t a laughing matter. This was a statement about a very, very serious issue – especially taking into account the shootings in Hungerford and Dunblane and Cumbria,” said
“This statement is one of the most troubling examples of ‘corporate managementspeak’ we’ve seen. What many people would view as bad news seems to be buried in gobbledegook. I think many people would struggle to understand what was being said.”
A spokeswoman for Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for better use of public money, added: “It’s crucial that the public sector use plain English and avoid jargon when making important announcements. If they bury news in gobbledegook then it is more difficult for the public to understand what is going on and hold them accountable.”
Hertfordshire police said the statement aimed to provide “the full background”. “This is not about burying bad news,” said the spokeswoman. “Wednesday’s statement aimed to provide the full background to Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire’s approach. We maintain that it is a clear statement.”