How NOT to involve the community

The borough council is currently seeking views on its draft ‘Statement of Community Involvement’.  You’ll find it here

Now, assuming that you’re part of the community, you’ll want to know how you might be involved.  So just click on the link and start reading.  The document’s only thirty three pages long.

The draft says that the council “will work with [hard to reach] groups to see how to best involve them.”  It seems reasonable that some of these groups might have modest educational achievements, so it also seems reasonable that a document that talks about involving them should be written appropriately.  Particularly as it’s a consultation document.

From time to time we mention Microsoft Word’s ‘readability test’.  It’s a standard feature of Word, and, as its name suggests, it estimates how easy it is to read a particular piece of text.  We’ve submitted the first two introductory paragraphs of the draft ‘Statement of Community Involvement’ to the test, and they score about 15.  That puts them in the “Very difficult to read. Best understood by university graduates” category.  To be fair, the score is slightly adrift – not enough to affect the category – because the initial paragraph contains repetitive gobbledeegook (which suggests that not even the council has managed to read it!)

If you want to know more about the readability test, you’ll find information here:

(Footnote.  i. We wrote similar criticisms about an earlier Statement of Community Involvement consultation back in 2005 when the council observed: “Despite extensive attempts at obtaining input from the local community and other important groups and organisations, the response has been low.”  We suggested that this was hardly a surprise.  A dozen years later, we expect pretty much the same lukewarm response.  ii. We don’t always comment adversely on council documents.  About a recent SHBC residential accommodation design guide, we wrote to the council:  “The guide is excellent and a welcome addition to the council’s planning documents.”)



7 thoughts on “How NOT to involve the community

  1. Today there are dozens of tools to solicit feedback from the constituency about almost anything. Both the Borough and County Councils use almost none of them, as it would be too painful for them to know the truth about most of what they are doing. Making the text virtually unreadable is actually a massive problem on two levels: first it screens out out any possibility of finding the truth about what people think. Secondarily it treats the constituents with contempt and disrespect. This is perhaps the biggest problem…

  2. I want to take you to task to say ” It seems reasonable that some of these groups might have modest educational achievement” is I believe unfair as reading the document the listing of these groups would maybe indicate only one of the groups might struggle. A proportion of the document is explaining why it has to be produced due to the various legislation. That the local government is forced to reach out to consult is, I think a good thing.

    • That’s rubbish, Bob. It’s hard to justify writing a document that’s ‘very difficult to read’ in any context. For a consultation document, it’s inexcusable. What’s more, you know that a large proportion of the population is hard to reach, not only because of limited education. Finally, re. your comment elsewhere that this is a ‘How’ document. If so, why does it contain a load of background information? Also, I searched the document in vain for the words ‘social media’, Facebook or Twitter. If Twitter is good enough for Trump and the Russians, surely SHBC should include it in its consultation armoury? Even the word ‘website’ only appears three times. The document is living in the past in terms of its content and attitude.

  3. As most of us know, most of the output coming out of SHBC is drivel and gobbledy gook , the result of multiple meetings where they convince each other they are doing somethi g right and useful.

    Reality is very little ever materialises to benefit the community.

    People rise up against the EU but IMHO the biggest obstruction to making Britain a better place is our self interested and visionless politicians, both local or national.

    • I tend to agree. It’s always struck me that the assumption that Brexit will make things better because we’ll have more control over our destiny is wrong. I see no sign that our local councils are any more competent than the EU. Quite possibly less. (I’ll pass over the ‘self interested’ observation. And the council does have a vision. Just no genuine intention of delivering it in my lifetime. )

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