A referendum is taking place in Stoke-on-Trent on October 23. Voters are being asked the following: "Are you in favour of the proposal for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be run in a new way, which includes a councillor, who will be elected by the councillors of Stoke-on-Trent to lead the council and the community which it serves?"

Nobody seems to know what the 41-word question means. The BBC report that it is "if they want an elected mayor." But they already have one. Apparently, it is really asking whether they want to give their elected mayor full executive power. The wording of the question doesn’t give much of a clue.

Marie Clair, of the Plain English Campaign, says:

"This is the problem with council and government documents.They feel they need to sound pompous and official-sounding, but they are serving the people and they just want to be told things in a straightforward way."

She’s got a point, hasn’t she? Councillors should insist that council officers use plain English – not least for all the reports they expect us to understand.

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