Editor-At-Large: Official Bollocks – the lingo that wastes cash and costs lives

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The idea that future British citizens or non- EU migrants wanting to join their partners in the UK must pass a test showing a basic command of English is very entertaining. Log on to the Border Agency and you can see sample questions that include: "What languages other than English are spoken in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?" The correct answer is Gaelic and Welsh, but a fat lot of use that would be to most applicants. The UK now uses a third language which most ordinary citizens here, no matter what their ethnic background, find totally incomprehensible. It's called Official Bollocks.

Official Bollocks flourished when New Labour came to power in 1997. Tony Blair needed to reinforce the idea that under his leadership, Britain plc was off to a fresh start. Forget the plain language of trades unions and old-style capitalist bosses. Forget the slightly officious tone used by councils and tax inspectors. Out went personnel officers and in came the growth industry of "human resources". Under New Labour a spade was never a spade, a worker never anything as basic, as unedifying, as a member of staff. Instead, in Tony's Big Tent, we all became stakeholders. Dates became delivery options. Leftover stuff when a project was completed became legacy. As the public sector grew, employing millions, many new layers of responsibility were invented in the workplace as job titles (and wages, pensions and perks) spiralled out of control. Official Bollocks blossomed under Tony's new objective- and target-driven culture.

At the BBC, John Birt introduced a labyrinthine costing system laughingly called "producer choice" and beefed up the workforce with hundreds of people who didn't make programmes, but were grouped in "delivery units". He left, and went to work for Tony Blair as his "blue sky" thinker.

Soon, government was littered with units and modules. Civil servants mastered a complex new jargon, derived from Birt-speak. NHS trusts, local councils, the police force and social services all signed up to Official Bollocks, the perfect way of excluding the uninitiated – ironically, at a time the government was harping on about inclusion. Official Bollocks was also the perfect way to ensure that old-style corrupt Spanish practices could continue, whereby bonuses and payments pad out the wage packets for lucky public sector workers, at a time when the rest of us are being asked to take pay cuts, although these have now been reclassified as "efficiency savings" in Bollocks-speak.

Last week, the police went ballistic when Theresa May said wages must be reduced if the force wants to retain the same staffing levels. She wants to axe dodgy perks and overtime payments. There's the special priority payment (classic Official Bollocks) which 40 per cent of officers receive for carrying out duties which may be "hard or unpleasant", benefiting lucky recipients up to £5,000 a year. I'm sure a lot of us would be willing to mop up sick-filled cells for less. Then, there's the laughably named competency-related threshold payment – £1,000 that goes to top constables. Coppers nicknamed it grab-a-grand. A spokesman for the Police Federation said: "It has taken 40 years to build fair and reasonable terms... that encourage recruitment." All these payments do is promote low-level lying about what the job actually entails.

Official Bollocks can be dangerous, as the coroner presiding over the 7 July inquest noted last week. Lady Justice Hallett robustly criticised the bureaucratic language used by emergency services in the aftermath of the bomb attacks. She said: "Management jargon is taking over and perfectly sensible titles are being changed. I don't know whether a crew manager is responsible for supplies or is used for fighting fires. People at the top need to communicate in plain English." A senior member of the London Fire Brigade told the inquest: "If the command structure is working correctly as it is designed to do, then the associated resources will get a briefing about those hazards." Official Bollocks, again.

The fire services call a mobile control room "a conference demountable unit". No wonder that confusion and poor communications seem to have hindered rescue operations.

David Cameron says he wants to abolish unnecessary red tape, but seems to have had zero success in abolishing Official Bollocks. It's the perfect way of concealing information from ordinary citizens – like what our highly paid council leaders, NHS Trust chief executives and senior civil servants actually do for a living. We live in an "us and them" society. And if you don't speak the lingo, you don't get the perks.

Do Charlie a big favour – ignore him

Further proof that Twitter is the chosen form of communication for the socially needy: Charlie Sheen managed to attract one million followers in 24 hours, setting a new world record. At this rate, he will soon be challenging the most popular person on Twitter, Lady Gaga, who has 8.5 million followers worldwide.

Why do so many people want to check the rantings of a troubled man with substance issues and who was convicted on charges of domestic violence against his wife last year? This "caring" dad was visited at his home in Los Angeles last week by police officers who removed his two sons, after his ex-wife obtained a restraining order. Apparently, he had threatened to cut her head off and send it to her mother. Sheen later tweeted: "My sons are fine... my path is now clear... defeat is not an option."

The actor's favourite catchphrase is "winning" but if winning is beating your wife and losing your children, I'd rather be a loser. Sheen claims his veins are full of "tiger blood". I suspect other chemicals might be present. His hourly tweets aren't entertaining. By signing up for them, followers endorse a sick fellow who needs help.

A nation of animal-haters

The first survey that measured how we treat our pets has discovered that, far from living up to our reputation as a nation of animal-lovers, we neglect millions of them every day. One in 10 rabbits lives in a cage that's too small. Sixty per cent of cat owners never check their pets for fleas. Almost two and a half million dogs live on leftovers and scraps – hardly a well-balanced diet. People often say I'm weird because I don't want a pet. But aren't I being honest about the amount of time and care pets require if you want to care for them properly?

Diet advice is a load of papaya

A government report on child nutrition (commissioned because of the rise in child obesity) lists sample menus for children under five, in an attempt to show nurseries and mums ways of including the correct amount of fruit and vegetables at mealtimes.

The report says that healthy eating is as important as learning to read and write and "can never begin too early". One sample menu lists fruity couscous with chickpeas and a side salad. What planet are these do-gooders coming from? Most mums wouldn't know a chickpea from a papaya, and couscous is hardly standard supermarket fare.

We should fight obesity by ordering nurseries to comply with strict nutritional standards and teach cooking in primary school.

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