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Orwell and good

March 22, 2015 8:55 PM
By Trevor Carbin

Wiltshire Council may be axing frontline services left right and centre but the PR department - which puts words into the mouths of cabinet members - remains well-funded and is one of the best in the country. In fact as the cuts bite deeper it becomes more important to have an effective machine to counteract negative publicity. Below is a letter from Trowbridge councillor Jeff Osborn drawing our attention to the linguistic waterboarding that goes on in the depths of County Hall.

My favourite piece of PR 'spin' from a couple of years ago was, "The result was in line with our minimum expectations," which translates as, "We kind of expected to screw up so it was no surprise when we did."

More recently the destruction of the county's youth service was portrayed as a progressive move. Here's an impressive example from WC spinners of words conveying the opposite meaning to the on-the-ground reality:

"Since October Wiltshire Council's new model for youth activities has been brought in across Wiltshire with local communities becoming closely involved in arranging activities for their young people, liaising with local groups and ensuring the sessions match what young people want to do. The new approach aims to ensure as many young people as possible are able to access community activities while the service gives taxpayers value for money."

And then there's the Green Bin consultation. 94% of respondents opposed charging for garden waste collection so the Conservatives introduced charging for garden waste collection. "We consulted the people before taking action."

................................................

"George Orwell should walk the corridors of County Hall, Trowbridge today. There he would hear some classic examples of his famous doublespeak that twist and disguise the meaning of language.

The two that immediately spring to mind are first; Conservative Cabinet Finance member, Dick Tonge, who insisted that the highly valued Wiltshire Music Service was not being cut, but simply "overhauled". Then there was Conservative Transport Portfolioholder, Horace Prickett, telling Melksham Town Council that the essential RUH Hopper bus service was not being axed. It was "hopefully" going to be funded from other sources - but this could not be guaranteed.

Last Friday, I learnt that Group 5, a local charity that collects, repairs and redistributes furniture to those in need, is going to lose all its core funding from Wiltshire Council. This is from a council that prides itself in supporting resilient local communities.

All this should make us wonder how many more local people will suffer from Wiltshire Council cuts and what Orwellian usages of doublespeak will be used to disguise them."

Jeff Osborn.