This is not new news I know but Teresa O’Neill is obviously keen on telling
as many people as possible that her plans for more service cuts meets the
approval of two thirds of the borough’s residents.
The figure councillor Peter Craske mentioned at the
Finance Scrutiny meeting has now
turned up on
the Tories’ website. The claim spurred me on to examine the figures more
closely because a quick glance didn’t look like supporting O’Neil’s stated two thirds.
“A clear mandate from residents”. But how clear? Is it being selective with the truth or just plain wrong?
The official analysis, all 132 pages of it, starts off with the statement that 64·2% of responses agreed that the council’s priorities were ‘broadly supported’. The 64·2% is bumped up to 65% on the website and Teresa O’Neill bumped it up to two thirds when speaking into my microphone. Not the biggest lie she has ever told I am sure.
There is a table in the Consultation Assessment which was reproduced here last month. I thought it was about time I put the figures into a spreadsheet. The most favourable approval rating I can get out of it is a little short of 60% support for the budget.
Only 583 people and organisations filled in the consultation form and a further 78 sent comments by letter or email. The deputy leader admitted the response was ‘tiny’.
Whilst the overall broad support is stated to be 64·2%, analysis of the answers to individual budget proposals shows a different picture. Of the 663 respondents only 342 commented on moving the archives to Bromley and that was by far the biggest response due no doubt to the pressure exerted by Penny Duggan. The other 22 proposals were commented on by (with one minor exception) fewer than 300 people each. The only proposals that didn’t get at least 50% support apart from the obvious archives fiasco was the chopping of music services in schools and the reduction in non-statutory funding for Bexley Voluntary Service Council (BVSC).
I still don’t know where the council’s 65% came from. Of those who responded only 44% were actively in favour of cuts. Of those who expressed a clear opinion, not even 60%.
I confess to being inexpert at Excel spreadsheets - even though I once coded my own long before Excel was ever dreamed up - so maybe someone would care to download mine (Office 2007 version), compare it to the table taken from the council’s document and check whether I have made a stupid mistake or Bexley council is fibbing again.
Whatever the figure, 663 responses from a population approaching a quarter of a million is never going to be a clear mandate.