Lies, Statistics, and Local Authorities

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The NLA’s roving trouble-shooter Gavin Dick gives the low-down on LA’s spinning of local consultations 

Mark Twain attributes the following to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli:

“There are three kinds of lies: liesdamned lies, and statistics.”

Politicians across the world have followed this maxim – with particular use of obfuscation and statistical manipulation – as often as possible and arguably making it into an art form.

There have been many examples through time of the manipulation of data to suit an argument. The creative use of figures by one party to show that they are wonderful or that they are delivering amazing services to the people.

When a local authority does it, it is not new or that unexpected. What is usually expected is that they will hide the real figures quite well. The missing page that has the important figures in it or several volumes of appendices so no one can get the raw data out of, as you need a PHd in data regression or some such specialist field. At best it is usually in a separate document which you have to physically go and get.

Enter Hastings Council, which doesn’t seem to favour this approach. Refreshingly (you might say) they have published the arguments against their own data together with their muddying analysis. You could say they’ve deployed their smokescreen, whilst leaving on the fog lamps.

Hastings council consulted on renewing Additional Licensing, start date April 2018 – which happens to be roughly when the Government proposes changing the law anyway making the scheme moot and meaning that it could be argued the Council is creating unnecessary work at the local community’s expense.

In the Council’s report paragraph seven they state that the consultation received 10 responses from residents and 45 from landlords or letting agents.  Yet in the following paragraph the same results reappears, explaining that as 70 per cent of tenants are in favour of the proposals with 73 per cent of landlords and agents opposing it.

Compelling, on the face of those percentages, but what when you consider that 70 per cent of residents equals seven people and 73 per cent of agents and landlords equates to 32 responses – the weighting has to be brought into question.

Firstly it is pitiful that important decisions can be justified by fewer than 85 interested locals, but more importantly it is really questionable that seven households can carry more weight than 32 local businesses serving the community.

Perhaps Mr Clemens had a point!

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