Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Aim council reports 'at kids of 13'

Derek Battersby. Photo / Supplied
Derek Battersby. Photo / Supplied

Auckland Council reports need to target a reading age of 13 and be fewer than five pages long to stop people falling to sleep, a senior council officer says in an email to her underlings.

At the start of the New Year community and cultural policy manager Ruth Stokes laid down the law on writing reports "so we don't have to waste our ... expensive time".

"All writing, whether in reports, letters or memos needs to be in plain English. You need to target a reading age of around 13."

When writing reports, Ms Stokes stressed the need for brevity and context for new councillors and local board members "just in case the rest of your report doesn't get read ... which, to be honest, is quite likely".

"Ideally, reports should be 3-5 pages in length (any more and I will be asleep or I have to question whether you really understand your subject)".

When writing letters, Ms Stokes told staff to sign off with "your sincerely" if they knew the person's name and "yours faithfully" if they didn't.

And Ms Stokes' own style for closing an email?

"I will sign off now, before I fall off my high horse ... R."

The email has been circulated among local board members.

Whau Local Board chairman Derek Battersby said Ms Stokes was right to point out the need for concise and clear reports, but it was derogatory to typecast elected representatives as 13-year-olds.

Ms Stokes, the former Auckland City Council's arts, community and recreation policy group manager, finished her council job on Friday and did not respond to questions.

- NZ Herald

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