10 February 2012

The Ministry of Silly Talks

Mr Mustard can't let misleading statistics go unchallenged.

Yesterday in the local Times newspaper Cllr Thomas ( Cabinet Member for Resources & Performance ) said "Previous industrial disputes have seen around 150 staff take action with 95 per cent of staff continuing to work as normal. He doesn't actually say that only 5% supported the latest strike but that is the implication. The 150 striking staff would be about 5% of the 3,000+ council employees. The trouble with this use of statistics is that the entire workforce were not balloted to go on strike. 

The number on strike was reported as 140. The number of staff in the DRS bundle is 232 as per the council's own report so the number balloted is likely to be in that area ( Mr Mustard is not privy to the exact number but doubtless the council are ) so it looks to Mr Mustard like over 50% of eligible employees went on strike which is a much more serious affair.

Daniel Thomas has form for using misleading statistics. Mr Mustard remembers his previous reported remark about collecting 99% of council tax reported in the local Times again here. Here is what he said:

“By the time we have pursued all council tax arrears we will have collected 99 per cent of the total amount owed."

Now the bad news for Dan Thomas is that Mr Mustard's alter ego has been a debt collector / credit consultant for the last 25+ years and so he knows hot air when he sees it. An improved position in the teeth of a recession didn't seem very likely. Mr Mustard duly sent in his questions under FOI ( the information being readily available in a spreadsheet in any well run local authority ) and received the following information:

Council Tax
As at 30 Sept 2011
% Collected
Arrears Balance

So in the last 7 years the council has not collected 99% with all the above figures rounding to 98% ( except 2010/11 which will improve slightly over the next 12 months ) and if anything the trend might well be downwards which would make sense in the current economic climate.

You might say that a 1% difference is not worth quibbling over. It is when 1% = £2,200,000

Moral of the story: When numbers come out of the mouth of Dan Thomas, don't take them at face value.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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