Monday, 12 April 2010

Lies, damned lies and ATOC statistics

This from Herr Dr Kalculus...

On April Fool's Day Michael Roberts titillated an early morning audience on Radio 5 with the 'fact' that railways were a mere 1% of total government service spending (or as he put it "a penny in the pound") .

If ATOC were important enough they would be expecting a letter any moment now from Sir Michael Scholar, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, for misusing government statistics.

On the basis that total government support to the railways is £5bn (ORR's figures only go up to 2008/9 when it is recorded as £5.2bn in National Rail Trends) this seems to indicate that £500bn of the government budget goes on services.
This is certainly an imaginative way of looking at the figures

The respected website shows that total central Government expenditure for 2010 is £488.5bn but that includes £247bn of interest payments as well as expenditure on pensions, defence and welfare - hardly services in the way that Michael means.

Also if capital spending on schools etc, paying for running government, such as HMRC, and such mysterious figures as £12bn of accounting adjustments are excluded the amount spent on services in its widest sense, probably does not exceed £200bn.

On this basis ATOC has got its figures completely wrong.

But to help them out a little, if local authority spending on services of some £100-110bn is included the variation is not quite so bad but still a long way adrift.

Almost certainly the Radio 5 audience didn't give a toss when this statistic was produced but it's not going to help the industry if it receives wider exposure and can easily be countered by those who do not mean us well by pointing out thar overall government support has risen from £1.4bn to £5.2bn in a decade.

An increase that is probably the biggest rise in any category of spend across Whitehall.