Bureaucrats have a wonderful way with words.
For example, a recent document from West Lothian Council was entitled “Partnership and Resources Policy Development Scrutiny Panel”. At 90 pages and 24,000 words, it’s not something you’d take along for holiday reading. It’s filled with phrases such as: “… sphere of governance … combat the persistence and the reproduction of inequalities, and to promote a truly egalitarian society.”
However, a third of the way into the document you might just happen across a section that outlines the horrendous state of financial affairs and the vicious cuts being introduced to balance the books. And do you know the amazing thing? Not once – not once, mark you – is the word “cut” actually used!
Well, except where it lays out one of the proposals as “reducing the frequency of grass cutting.” And that doesn’t count.
Instead, the writers have managed to use phrases such as “reductions”, “rationalisation”, “termination”, “phasing”, “changes” and “discontinuing”.
Part of the plan to reduce expenditure by £45million includes things like stopping the provision of hanging baskets, allied with reducing the frequency of street sweeping and gully cleaning. Well, there’s a couple of hundred quid saved.
More seriously, there will be a reduction in the provision of older people care homes, and an increase in class sizes. Also buried in the document is the mention of staffing reductions of up to 1,000 employees. Oh, yes, and a reduction of council offices from 43 to 17.
It all sounds like cuts to me, despite what the Council Scribes call it.
I have little doubt that the council could easily afford to get rid of 1,000 professional pen pushers and paper shufflers with their “in”, “out” and “shake it all about” trays. Whether they can find a real job in the real world remains to be seen, though.
But there is no humour in the loss of jobs – and so many jobs. The seriousness would suggest it should be dealt with more openly than being included in a massive document that prattles on about “egalitarian society” or “gender assessments” or “challenge stereotypical views of women and men”.
And it’s serious enough to be called what it is. It’s not a “phasing”. Neither is it a “rationalisation”. What we are talking about here – and no mistake, despite the flowery language – is whacking great cuts.