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Golden Bull awards 2014

The Golden Bull trophy The Golden Bull trophy The Golden Bull trophy

Here is the worst of this year’s written communication. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

  • Tim Day sent this from the City of Edinburgh Council’s 'Programme Momentum Progress Report'

The case review workstream has been established which now includes the legacy Joule case reviews and the deferred case reviews. Activity to date has included amendments to the case review deliverables to make them appropriate for deferred cases. Work is now progressing on the re-programming and re-prioritisation of the case reviews and confirming the number of cases to be reviewed by Deloitte and the internal CEC team.

  • The following 67-word paragraph, taken from Local Action Cornwall's 'Local Development Strategy', has been sent to us by an unnamed supporter

In the absence of the detail of the LEADER National Operational Manual the proposed decision making process is outlined below and this has been based on previous delivery of the LEADER in Cornwall and closely mirrors the process outlined in the European Network for Rural Development Guide (Nos:10) which outlines best practice for LEADER delivery and is based on experiences in the Argyll and Islands LEADER Group.

  • One of our supporters sent us this from HMRC's web pages on drawdown pensions

Can I switch from flexible drawdown to capped drawdown?

[Schedule 165 (3B) Finance Act 2004]
No – the test on whether or not you qualify for flexible drawdown is only at the start of flexible drawdown. The decision to move to flexible drawdown is irrevocable under the tax rules and you can't lose the ability to take drawdown pension using flexible drawdown. Once you are in flexible drawdown it is for you and your scheme administrator to decide how much you take out and how often. The amounts drawn under flexible drawdown may be similar to or different from the amounts allowed under capped drawdown. However, there are tax consequences if you subsequently make contributions to or resume active membership of any registered pension schemes after taking flexible drawdown.

  • Pensions Ombudsman
    Police and Firefighters' pension schemes – update number 16

(Our supporter reasonably asked why the following couldn't simply state: 'We're still looking into it.')

We appreciate that there is considerable interest in the progress of the lead complaint that we are investigating and in the outcome given the effect that this will have on other retired members. However, the issues concerned need careful consideration. They are complex and the consequences of the Ombudsman's decision potentially very significant for the affected parties. We are currently obtaining the parties' comments on certain preliminary views expressed by the Ombudsman on the lead complaint. This is an important procedural step and we expect that the next step will involve the issue a comprehensive preliminary decision by the Ombudsman with his views on all relevant aspects of the lead complaint and the likely outcome. We hope that this will happen in November and at that stage we will be able to say when we envisage that the complaint will be finally determined.

The Pensions Ombudsman Service have sent us this reply:-

"Thank you to the Plain English Campaign for reminding us that quality matters as much as quantity in our updates. People would perhaps have found 'We’re still looking into it' a bit unhelpful. But we certainly could have been more succinct.
That news item was originally published on our old website. Since then we have launched a completely new website and have rewritten all of our publications and standard letters, with the aim of being clearer and more accessible. At the same time, and long before the award, as part of our plan to improve the way we communicate, we arranged training sessions in our office for all of our staff - with the Plain English Campaign’s trainers."

  • James Hambro and Partners LLC sent a letter containing this paragraph to one of their clients

So a relevant comparator investment for your case was Comparator 3. This comparator is a return equal to a 50/50 combination of the APCIMS Balanced Index and the IMA Mixed Investment 40-85% Shares sector. This comparator has a listed equity exposure of 40-85% (IMA) and 67.5% (APCIMS).

  • British Telecom email error message

The string too long is refused or truncated and the service works fine.

(We at the Campaign know that this is a computer 'error' message. Our question is: who wrote it? Someone, somewhere, decided on that particular wording, and it could easily be a whole lot clearer. The computer may well say 'no' but a human instructed it to do so somewhere along the line.)

  • Ashley Baxter sent us this from Buckinghamshire County Council

Consultancy Services Framework

Buckinghamshire County Council is seeking to establish a Framework Agreement to create a flexible base of external consultancy expertise to assist with the implementation of its Transformation programme and other change projects across the organisation. The Framework is intended to provide flexible and agile access to resources in support of the core and additional services identified in the specification.
Through the Framework, the Council is also seeking to channel its spend in a way that provides enhanced value for money and helps to shape a single view of change.

We are seeking to appoint a number of capable and innovative service providers to the Framework who can deliver against a multi-project portfolio of work over the next few years. We will be looking to our Framework partners not just to respond to our needs and we will also welcome a proactive approach and partners that will bring fresh ideas and boundary-pushing proposals to the table.

Ashley Baxter, Managing Director of Hydrostat Ltd in Lincolnshire, sent this in. He comments: "The rules of Local Government procurement are difficult enough for small businesses to understand without the additional barrier of gobbledygook. I read the Bucks CC tender information several times hoping to work out whether or not it was relevant to my business."

  • Michael Marshall was confused about why NCP thinks this email, containing proudly trumpeted changes, 'makes it easier…to select a car park' when to him and us it seems more confusing

Dear Michael

We recently told you about our plans to change the names of our car parks at Birmingham Airport.

The good news is the changeover was successfully completed this morning.

We believe this change makes it easier for you to select a car park that suits your needs.

What's changed?

Old name New name Car park features
Stay 1
Car Park 1
  • Multi-storey car park
  • Within a 2 minute walk of the terminal building
Stay 2 & 3
Car Park 2 & 3
  • Multi-storey car park
  • Within a 2 minute walk of the terminal building
Long Stay 1 Car Park 5
  • Within a 10 minute walk of the terminal building
  • Shuttle bus provides frequent transfers to terminal
Long Stay 3 Car Park 7
  • Within 2 miles of the terminal building
  • Shuttle bus provides hourly transfers to terminal

An NCP spokesperson commented; "We regret any confusion that may have been caused by the table informing customers of the name changes to our car parks at Birmingham Airport. We understand that car park names alone are not always a great way to help customers understand which car park will offer the best value for their specific needs, which is why our website at provides clear and concise information to enable customer choice. In July we sent an email to customers who had already made a car park booking at Birmingham Airport to inform them of the name changes so that they would be able to follow new directional signage at the airport and find the car park they had already paid for. These changes were made in response to a large quantity of feedback from customers who told us that the old names caused confusion when driving to the airport, and since the changes this type of feedback has reduced considerably."

  • An anonymous supporter sent us this from the Southeastern Railways website

2. What are the times for peak and off-peak travel?

Our peak time services run Monday to Friday, from 06.59 to 09.59, and from 16.00 - 18.59. Off-peak services run at all other times.

Although it is considered peak between 16.00 and 18.59, if you purchase a ticket to travel at this time, the ticket is sold as off-peak.

This is because off peak tickets are generally available for travel after 09.30 in the metro area, and on services which arrive in London after 10.00 from Kent mainline.

A spokesman from Southeastern Railways said "We have reviewed the text. We can certainly see how this might construed as confusing. The text is factually accurate but we are looking into this to see if we can make it less confusing.

  • Here's a BBC Media Action advertisement for a 'Senior Adviser, Economic Security and Opportunities', whatever one of those is (the job description makes it no clearer)

Role Responsibility

The Senior Adviser, Economic Security and Opportunities will lead on work within the focus area of Economic Security and Opportunity as part of a wider approach to resilience.

The role has influence across the whole organisation and involves external engagement across a range of development, policy and research factors. You will take a lead on the development of internal strategies, work intensively on specific development projects, provide technical support to a major thrust on business development, and build relationships with major external stakeholders.

  • One of our supporters wasn't keen on this definition in Scottish Power's Electricity General Terms and Conditions

Maximum Power Requirement

In respect of an Application Form the maximum power requirement specified as the Maximum Power Requirement in the Application Form or in respect of a Verbal Agreement, the maximum power requirement identified as the Maximum Power Requirement in the Letter failing such specification or identification the maximum amounts which you are entitled to take through the Connection Point.

A Scottish Power spokesperson replied: "Legal definitions often need to cover technical details, but we fully agree that in this instance the language and grammar could be improved. We will be making changes to the document."

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