Bristol City Council & the English Language

Bristol City Council & the English Language

Bristol City Council logo with sinking shipBristolian may exist as a dialect with its own idiosyncrasies, but within the city and county of Bristol itself, there’s one place where English is used in a peculiar way: the Counts Louse (as pronounced in the local vernacular; some call it City Hall – or a variant thereof – after its renaming by the then Mayor George Ferguson in 2012. Ed.). In his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote the following:

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Down at the Counts Louse, the English language has been used to conceal what is really going on behind its mock Georgian façade, particularly where funding cuts and redundancies are planned, usually couched in terms such as redeployment, restructuring and the like.

Perhaps the most famous use of such obfuscatory language occurred in 2013 when it was discovered – as reported by The Bristolian – that £165,000 in cash was missing from the council’s loss-making markets department (a department that’s supposed to make money for the local authority. Ed.). This was duly recorded in an internal report as ‘material income misappropriation‘.

We ordinary mortals have a much more succinct phrase than material income misappropriation. We call it theft.

That infamous bit of council-speak has now been joined by another phrase by Councillor Craig Cheney, the elected member in charge of the city’s purse strings, which was duly reported by the Bristol Post in relation to the evacuation of Barton House in Barton Hill due to structural defects.

Barton House in Bristol
Barton House. Image courtesy of Google Street View.

What Cllr. Cheney said to the local press while commenting on Barton House included the sentence below.

There’s perhaps not as much concrete as there should be.

Perhaps? Most definitely not as much concrete, plus ignorance and non-observance of the building plans, according to your colleague Councillor Kye Dudd.

Give yourself a pat on the back, Cllr. Cheney; that one sentence alone deserves its own special place in the annals of British understatement. 😀

In less light-hearted reporting on Barton House, it has now emerged that the government warned Bristol City Council in 2017 – six years ago – about the condition of Barton House and four other tower blocks built using the LPS building system and perhaps more scandalously that no structural survey of Barton House had been conducted since 1970, i.e. over half a century ago. Municipal neglect of the city’s infrastructure is endemic down the Counts Louse. 🙁
Author: Steve Woods

Elderly, generic carbon-based humanoid life form.