Council's Polish podcasts under fire

PLANS by an Essex authority to record podcasts in Polish, French and Spanish have been branded “completely absurd” by tax campaigners.

PLANS by an Essex authority to record podcasts in Polish, French and Spanish have been branded “completely absurd” by tax campaigners.

The TaxPayers' Alliance accused Chelmsford Borough Council of “wasting” more than £2,000 on recording local information in the three foreign languages as well as English.

The council has produced the podcast - an audio file downloadable to computers - detailing some of the services it provides and where to get more information.

In becoming the first local authority in the country to offer podcasts in other languages through its website, the council hopes to reach out to more of its residents.

A video version of the podcast is also available in sign language with subtitles, while the council provides documents in alternative languages and formats, such as large print or Braille, as and when they are required.

However Matthew Sinclair, policy analyst for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the council had taken political correctness to a “completely absurd” level.

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He said: “Those who need to can already get the basic information that will be in the podcast from the text of the council's website. How many deaf people can read sign language but not ordinary or large-format text on a webpage?

“How many of the just 5% of Chelmsford residents born outside the UK don't speak English and can understand Spanish, French or Polish when they're spoken but not when they're written down?”

He claimed the minorities the council was hoping to cater for existed nowhere but in the “fertile imaginations” of council staff.

He added: “They need to get their priorities right and stop wasting other people's money on inane novelties.”

Roy Whitehead, council leader, said it was aiming to be more inclusive and interact with younger people more by using the web.

He said: “It's a very narrow view to expect everybody to be the same as everyone else. Many people use computers as their lifeline to the world.

“Councils are trying very hard not to waste their residents' money but the relatively modest cost of trying to do this is very worthwhile.”

Users can download the podcast, which lasts between 10 and 12 minutes depending on the language, and listen to it through their computer, save it for future reference or even listen to it on the move via their MP3 player.

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