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Osborne Memorial award 2008

This year’s Osborne Memorial award went to Lady Thatcher, a long-time advocate of plain English and the benefits it gives to government.

Chrissie and Lady Thatcher at a Plain English campaign exhibition
Chrissie and Lady Thatcher at a Plain English campaign exhibition

Lady Thatcher received this award to recognise the work she did in setting up the Rayner Review in the early 1980s when she was Prime Minister. This project, headed by Sir Derek Rayner, proved to be the most thorough review of government communications ever carried out in any country.

With help and encouragement from Plain English Campaign, the review staff appraised over 171,000 types of government forms. They were able to get rid of over 36,000 forms which were outdated or useless and to rewrite and redesign about 58,000 others. The initial savings produced by this initiative were estimated at £15 million.

Here is one example from the hundreds of thousands of government forms produced every year.

Over 750,000 copies of a ‘Civilian Travel Claim Form’ from the Ministry of Defence were filled in each year. When this form had been rewritten and redesigned, the error rate was cut by half, the time to complete it dropped by 10% and the processing time reduced by 15%. For a one-off cost of £12,000 the Ministry saved £400,000 a year in staff time.

The results of the Rayner Review brought huge benefits to the government’s administration resources. It saved millions of pounds in tax-payers’ money that could be better used in other areas of government services, such as in education or health.

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