Lies, da*n lies and statistics

Something rather different today.  Paul sent us a link to an article in Woman & Home (!) a few days ago.

We quote from it:

“The most and least happy spots in the UK have been revealed, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).”

“The most miserable place to be was calculated to be Surrey Heath in Surrey. The South East English town scored 6.71.”

Of course, similar extracts from a recent publication by the Office of National Statistics have also appeared elsewhere.

We have just two comments.  First, this graph is a further extract from the ONS data:

It seems unlikely that the position has really changed that much over the last year.

Secondly, according to an item in the press recently: “The ONS told the people of Corby, Northamptonshire this week that ‘they were officially living in Britain’s unhappiest place'”  So that’s clear, then…

 

CEO’s ‘pay rise’; the petition outcome

We gather that the borough council has recently issued the following e-mail:

“From: Surrey Heath Borough Council <surreyheath@petitions.mysociety.org>

“Subject: Response to petition ‘CEOPAY’

“In accordance with the Council’s petition scheme, the Leader has submitted the following response to this petition:

“Residents will be aware that, since this petition was launched, an Independent Investigation into this matter has been agreed and is now underway. The Terms of Reference for the investigation are available on the Council’s website. The requested action from the petition is being considered as part of this investigation, though a final report is not likely to be made available to the Council for a number of weeks.

“Petition information – http://petitions.surreyheath.gov.uk/CEOPAY/

“If you would like to opt out of receiving further mail on this or any other petitions you signed, please email optout-surrey@petitions.mysociety.org”

We do wonder why it is taking so long to investigate what must be a simple matter.  Indeed, there should be no need for an independent investigation at all.

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Here’s a little background information. The borough council is undertaking, or will be undertaking, “a restructure of the Council’s senior management structure” We deduce (perhaps wrongly) that this will be completed by about March.

Secondly, according to the press, Redcar and Cleveland Council has scrapped its chief executive’s role as part of cost-cutting measures. Of course, we never speculate…

A dangerous obstruction

We don’t normally comment on poor parking or bad driving here.  (Apart from anything, there’s too much of both of them!)  But yesterday we thought that the position of this truck and trailer, which we think had just delivered equipment to Ashwood House, was particularly ‘challenging’.  Worse, we suspect that it stayed where it was for much of the day.  The double yellow lines and ‘No Deliveries’ markings on the kerb didn’t seem to have much effect.

Of course, we probably understand the problem.  Where DO you park such a vehicle so that it’s out of the way?  And it’s hardly the sort of vehicle that you can drive around the town, looking for an empty parking bay.  So, IF It’s going to collect the equipment in a few hours’ time, maybe it’s best to leave it there?  But, as you can see, it made life very difficult for cars leaving Main Square car park.  They couldn’t see past it to spot any traffic bearing down on them along Pembroke Broadway.

What was the right thing for the driver to do in the circumstances?  Shouldn’t someone have been given the task of telling people about to leave the car park when it was safe to move?

Future uses for the BHS store

The borough council bought Ashwood House four years ago.  It has now published a ‘questionnaire’ on Facebook about the future use of the ground floor:

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“Ashwood House on Princess Way – What would you like to see in the former BHS unit?

“As part of the regeneration of Camberley, which has already seen the refurbishment of The Square Camberley, construction of a new leisure centre and High Street improvements works, SHBC is exploring options for the future of the former BHS unit in Princess Way, Camberley as part of the town’s exciting improvements.

“Your answers to the following questions will help us understand your interests and needs as users of the town centre, and will help us identify our priorities moving forward.

“Access the survey on this link. The closing date for the survey is 11 November 2019.

“Many thanks!”

https://surreyheath.formstack.com/forms/bhs_survey

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As far as we know, the survey has only been publicised on the internet.  Older people may not see it, which is a shame.  And it’s a bit puzzling.  One suggested use for the empty shop space is “It would also support training initiatives in hospitality.”  What does that mean?  Also, part of the survey asks people to “rank” various uses;  but as far as we can tell, it’s possible to put them all as top priority, or bottom priority.  This isn’t ‘ranking’, as we understand it.  What’s more, we reckon it’s possible to complete the survey more than once, which can’t be desirable.

To be clear, we’re all in favour of consultations and improved communication between the council and residents.  However, we’re a bit wary of a survey which doesn’t ask residents whether they, eg, agree to an increase in council tax or a reduction in services to offset a ‘rent subsidy’ for tenants in the newly-available space.  If residents aren’t willing, some desirable but ‘low-profit’ uses will have to be ruled out.  Everyone is in favour of lower income tax and more spending on the NHS, but we’re unlikely to have both!

 

Update on independent investigation into CEO’s ‘pay rise’

The borough council has posted the following information on its website:

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“Update on independent investigation

“Monday, 28 October, 2019
“The independent investigation into payment of an additional duties allowance to the Chief Executive is still ongoing.
“Browne Jacobson is the legal firm who were appointed to carry out the investigation. We have been advised that a final report is not likely to be made available to the Council for a number of weeks.
“The Council remains committed to completing this investigation in a thorough and robust manner.”
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In the meantime, we have submitted a formal ‘Complaint’ to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the council’s refusal to reveal its procedure for making financial awards in general to the Chief Executive.  We don’t expect a rapid response.

We got the wrong end of the stick!

Having played a little with pneumatic and hydraulic systems in the past, for a few seconds we wondered what we were looking at inside this open green cabinet near the traffic lights on the A30.  Then the penny dropped.  The ‘plumbing’ wasn’t pneumatic or hydraulic, but optical – the cabinet contained fibre optic cabling.  We pushed the door closed, but it wasn’t locked and it started to swing open again, as our second photo shows.  There was no obvious company name on the cabinet – to whom should the open door be reported?

Main Square car park. Why the difference?

We know that not many people are particularly concerned about the inconsistencies in the signage and markings for pedestrians and drivers in Main Square car park.  We just don’t think it’s a good idea – diferences might not cause an accident, but they could contribute to one.

Anyway, one inconsistency that DOESN’T much disturb us, but which leaves us wondering somewhat, is the fact that a pedestrian walkway is clearly marked on the ramp up to the fourth floor.  But there are no such marking one level further up, to the roof.  Why?

(Yes, our photos were taken at a quiet time.  But on a Saturday afternoon pretty much all the parking spaces can be occupied.)

Improving steps

We would give the council an unqualified pat on the back for improving the stairwells in Main Square Car Park.  Only, some of the work has been overdue for so long that it’s almost an anti-climax.

Anyway, new stair treads have been installed in the western stairwell.  Rather puzzling – though we’ve not yet been able to check closely – it appears as if the edges of the very battered treads of the main stairwell have only been re-painted.  But the handrails are now a much more wholesome grey.