'Abbreviations in council reports have caused NEOP' - says baffled Luton councillor

Abbreviations in local authority reports have caused NEOP (no end of problems) for a baffled Luton borough councillor, a meeting heard.

Cllr Terry Keens has criticised the number of abbreviations in council reports
Cllr Terry Keens has criticised the number of abbreviations in council reports

Despite highlighting the issue more than once over a two-year period, nothing seems to have changed, according to Liberal Democrat Crawley councillor Terry Keens.

"There are a lot of abbreviations in these reports which to be quite honest don't mean a thing to me, or to anyone else unless you're an officer," he told a meeting of the council's scrutiny children's services review group.

Councillor Keens no longer chairs the group, but has called for clarity in committee agendas before.

The latest report to leave a trail of confusion was a bi-monthly update on the children’s services Ofsted improvement plan.

"I can go through a whole list of them which are in this report," he explained. "Page 12 ... what is ILACS?"

The council's service director quality and Improvement Damian Elcock replied: "It's Ofsted's framework for inspecting local authority services for children (ILACS)."

Councillor Keens then referred to page 16 of the report, "TOR".

"Terms of reference (TOR)," responded Mr Elcock.

"I'm sorry we have to go through this, but a lot of these things don't make a bit of sense if you don't know what you're talking about," said councillor Keens. "Page 27 ... iTrent."

Mr Elcock told the committee iTrent is the council's system for staff to log annual leave.

"Right," acknowledged councillor Keens. "Page 30 ... NQSWs." The reply was immediate from Mr Elcock: "Newly qualified social workers (NQSWs)."

"I worked that one out," added councillor Keens. "Yes, that's good. Page 36 ... BI suggests ten KPIs."

Mr Elcock was mastering his brief now: "Business Intelligence (BI) and a KPI is a key performance indicator."

"Right," concluded councillor Keens. "And the last one on that page is PAM."

Easy enough for Mr Elcock, who responded: "Performance and accountability meeting (PAM)."

Councillor Keens then finished. "Right, okay, that's good," he said.

"I was just wondering can we write these things out a bit more rather than these abbreviations?"

Mr Elcock said: "We've previously provided a glossary with a lot of these terms on about six months ago.

"But I'm happy to reissue it and make sure all of these are on there. Absolutely not a problem."

Councillor Keens added: "We've just wasted ten minutes going through them, so if we got a glossary that would be quite useful. Thank you."

Liberal Democrat Crawley councillor Lee Bridgen, who currently chairs the review group, agreed with his ward colleague, saying: "That would be useful for me as a new chairman, as well."

Labour Northwell councillor Yasmin Waheed recalled asking for a glossary at the previous meeting.

"I did ask for one because there are quite a lot and there were some misspelt as well, errors too," she said. "It would be beneficial."

Mr Elcock repeated: "We'll certainly provide one in future. As I say, we've previously supplied one.

"But I recognise there are new members on the group, so we can get that reissued."

Councillor Bridgen said: "That would be appreciated. Thank you."