Tag: survey

Safety in numbers

Whatever happened to investigative journalism? According to the Adver’s editor, his journalists ‘give the news a dose of perspective.’ Not when they’re reporting police statistics they don’t. Yesterday, they reported a police survey of crime concerns in Pinehurst. It wasn’t the most comprehensive survey.

Officers surveyed people living in the Tree Courts area following a three month long crackdown on crime and antisocial behaviour. More than 50 questionnaires concerning crime issues were sent to homes in the area.

Tree Courts is just a small part of Pinehurst, but the Adver didn’t let that fact get in the way of the headline.

Pinehurst people feel safe – survey

That this was a small unrepresentative survey went uncommented upon by the Adver’s journalist, though not by their readers.

84% people who responded said they felt safe where they lived.

Looks impressive, except that only 38 of 55 surveys were returned, and no indication is given of how many answered each question. So, to put some of the Adver’s percentages into numbers of people, at most:

  • 32 people said they felt safe where they lived;
  • 18 people felt antisocial behaviour had decreased as a result of the police operation;
  • 24 people were happy with the multi games use area opened in July.

Presented like that, the survey results look much less impressive.

A week in surveys

This week seems to have been a week for Swindon to feature in surveys, some local, some national. As always with statistics, the publicity has been misleading.

First there were the May results of Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership’s business survey. This showed that 45% of those surveyed expect an increase in turnover during the next 3 months whilst 24% expect it to fall and 31% expect no change. The Adver translated that into a headline of ‘Business leaders optimistic about recovery’ whilst Swindon Business News managed a rather more restrainedLocal firms seeing some signs of easing’. With the survey also showing that 47% expect no change in ‘General Business’ — whatever that is — and 68% expecting no change in employment, it’s the headlines that are optimistic, not the business leaders.

The week also saw the publication of a report by the Centre for Cities on youth unemployment. The press seemed keen to portray the report as showing that youth unemployment in Swindon is high. For example, the Telegraph:

Students in Swindon are facing an uncertain future as the one-time boom town takes a beating at the school of hard knocks.

and the Adver:

According to research institute Centre For Cities, the number of unemployed youngsters in Swindon has rocketed from 2.39 per cent in February last year to 7.67 per cent last month – the highest increase in the country.

Now, it’s true that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Swindon is now above the national average and that youth unemployment and unemployment in general have risen more quickly in Swindon than elsewhere.

Since the beginning of the recession, Swindon’s claimant count has risen to 5.4 percent – passing the GB average for the first time in 30 years.

But as the report’s own figure 6 shows, youth unemployment is still below the UK average: it may have, in the Adver’s words, rocketed, but it is still below average.

Finally there was a story that people liked living in Swindon but dislike the council.

MOST people like living in Swindon but dislike the local council and feel they have little influence over official decisions. Those are the findings of a major new survey that questioned hundreds of people across the town about their local neighbourhoods and the extent to which they felt able to make their voices heard.

The Place Survey conducted by local councils for the Department of Communities and Local Government does indeed show that 80% of the Swindon population are ‘satisfied with their local area as a place to live’ whilst only 27% believe ‘they can influence decisions in their local area’ and 41% are ‘satisfied with how council runs things’. But the national averages for those are 80%, 29% and 45% respectively. For an example of an unpopular council, try Northampton (only 27% satisfied with the council), for a stubborn one try Gosport (only 20% think they can influence it). So, rather than Swindon Borough Council being singled out by its residents for disdain as the headline would have us believe, their attitude to it is actually rather average.

Surveys for nothing, fares for a fortune

Exact fare pleaseI’ve no idea how Mr Wills thinks pollsters earn their living, but apparently it’s not from running surveys. In what is becoming an annual argument over free travel for pensioners, he seems to think that Swindon Borough Council can obtain a survey for nothing.

In these difficult economic times I am not asking the council to spend more money but only to conduct a survey to see whether passengers can get what they are asking for without any extra burden on the taxpayer.

Surveys cost money… unless you want something that’s so poor as to not be worth the effort. It also doesn’t take much thought to work out that, if some pensioners are currently paying to travel before 9.30 am — which the comments in the Adver report show they are — then giving them free travel will cost the taxpayer money.

Whether or not the extra cost’s as much as the £230,000 claimed by Mr Bluh is another matter. That figure corresponds to roughly 2700 extra pensioners travelling in the extra half hour each week.

Life in Swindon Survey

Life as we know it…I’ve received a survey to fill in from Swindon Borough Council, titled ‘Life in Swindon Survey’. If the opening blurb is to be believed, its purpose matches its title.

We would like to hear your views about life in your local area and about issues such as, anti-social behaviour, leisure activities and your health. Your view will help us to plan our future services around residents’s priorities.

The survey itself though has very few questions specifically about ‘Life in Swindon’: only four out of thirty two. Three of these make up the entirety of the ‘Culture & leisure’ and ‘Your feelings about your local community’ sections (one on which attractions have been visited, one on satisfaction with Swindon town centre, and one on problems in the ‘local area’) and the other (on local adult education) is in the ‘Work and skills’ section. The section titled ‘Your community’ is virtually nothing about the community and almost everything about the individual filling in the form, with two questions about individual involvement in voluntary work, another on individual ability to influence decisions and only one on the community (about how well people from different backgrounds get on). Seven of the thirty two questions are standard demographic questions used primarily for classifying respondents. Having filled it in, I feel like I’ve been answering a survey that’s more about me than it is about Swindon or ‘Life in Swindon’.

I can’t help feeling this was a wasted opportunity. Much of the survey seems to be seeking information obtainable from other government agencies. What little’s left was hardly worth the effort — and possibly not the consultants’ fee either. There’s so much more to say on ‘Life in Swindon’ than answers to three questions can tell.

Lost food

As has been reported both locally and nationally, a survey for Year of Food and Farming in support of the just finished British Food Fortnight has shown that many children do not know where traditional British foods such as pasties, haggis and cheddar cheese originate from. Why would they? Shop in Sainsbury’s and if you read the labels you’ll see cheddar that comes from Canada or Devon and pasties that come from Wales. Until recently protected by law, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies could come from Wiltshire or a similarly named location in Yorkshire.

At least I now know why, for the last two weeks, on the day they normally serve pasta, my works canteen has served ‘prize winning local sausages on a bed of creamed florentine potatoes’. It was their grudging nod to British Food Fortnight and bangers and mash.