Staffordshire Bull Terriers

The 17-year battle to save a Staffordshire horse-riding route has led to an early Plain English Campaign Golden Bull Award frontrunner.

Campaigner John Bainbridge has been fighting to get Tory MP Philip Atkins to reopen the Clifton Campville route with no success. And Atkins’ latest response – delegated to Jean Evans, his ‘Head of Law’ – is a four-page stream of nonsense well worthy of our Golden Bull award.

Clifton Campville residents have spent nearly two decades trying to get the riding route listed on Staffordshire County Council’s ‘Definitive Map’. Until then, nobody can use it. A local farmer, Stephen Bostock, has blocked the route – and the council continue to dodge the issue.

They’ve also made sure their position is incomprehensible. The jargon-heavy letter in question spends a lot time making no sense, as well as failing to deal with the issue.

When asked about her atrocious letter, Jean Evans – who, remember, responded on behalf of Philip Atkins – delegated her response to Councillor Ian Parry. Mr Parry’s response includes the following comment.

“The county council does try to communicate in simple language, but when writing about a complex legal subject which has already been the subject of correspondence, it is inevitable some of the phraseology will reflect that complexity.”

We don’t agree. There is never an excuse for resorting to impenetrable ‘phraseology’ and, in this case as in so many others, the language is not just complex – it’s evasive.

As our media spokesman Steve Jenner said: "The residents of Clifton Campville – or indeed anywhere else on earth – would be mystified by this piece of gibberish. Staffordshire County Council should be ashamed of this shabby response.

“These people have a democratic right to receive clear and straightforward communications from a body, which is supposedly acting on their behalf.”

We hope that Staffordshire County Council open up clear and simple lines of communication with Clifton Campville residents on this issue. It’s clearly dragged on far too long. Whatever the council’s response, Jean Evans’ letter is currently number one on our list of Golden Bull contenders.

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