Treasury’s options on RPI?

Wednesday is set to be a sad day for anyone who believes that the UK’s statistical system is “independent”. The Treasury, yes, the Treasury, will pronounce on the future of the RPI, and/or the future of UKSA and its various ill-defined and overlapping parts. The Cabinet Office is actually responsible for UKSA, UKSA has a reporting line to Parliament, and you might think that the Office for Statistics Regulation would do what its name suggested but no, the good old Treasury will impose its not-at-all independent self on the data. Continue reading Treasury’s options on RPI?

How poor governance led to the problems with the RPI

Wednesday morning (it has been announced) will see the publication of the Government’s response to the critical House of Lords report on “Measuring inflation“. This blogs identifies a series of failings in governance that led to the extraordinary and stupid situation everyone finds themselves in. Continue reading How poor governance led to the problems with the RPI

RPI truths and UKSA blindness

The UK Statistics Authority announced today that it will respond to the House of Lords report ‘Measuring Inflation’ on 4 September. It’s hard to know how UKSA will respond as, due to its actions and inactions, it and the measurement of inflation is in a deep hole. The Lords report said (page 4) that the “present position of the Authority is untenable” and that “it should fulfil its statutory duty to promote and safeguard the quality of official statistics and to do that, it should request a fix to the clothing problem”. This note sets out three truths that I hope – but do not expect – UKSA to cover. UKSA needs to be honest about formulae, stop being biased and act independentlyContinue reading RPI truths and UKSA blindness

And the local election results show …………

The media coverage of the results of the local elections (in May 2019) has at times been deeply misleading with voting outcomes not being accurately described. The problem is two-fold. First, the usual way of presenting the figures – in terms of seats, percentage share of the vote and swings – can give a very misleading impression. It has on this occasion as the usual metrics have been distorted by the plummeting turnout compared to 2015 (when the turnout was high due to the General Election). No one single summary statistic can be relied upon in all circumstances. Second, it is nigh on impossible to get the actual voting figures. The country deserves a central publication point for election data to allow anyone to do their own, neutral, assessment of the trends. The time has come for the UK to have more transparency about its election results – surely one of the most fundamental of all statistics – as befits a developed democracy. Without this, the voters are unlikely to get a fair sense of the results given much of the interpretation is being done by politicians or columnists skilful enough to select their factoids to suit their own story or others who are innumerate, wilfully or naively ignorant of the facts, or producing projections from black box models.

Continue reading And the local election results show …………

RPI – the background to the scandal

The RPI scandal has been a slow motion car crash since 2010. The nation’s most well-used and well-known statistic has been subjected to silly mistakes in production, weak and indecisive management, too much political influence and misuse, an overbearing economist mindset, more dogma than imagination, limited innovation, and mixed messages from those supposedly in control. This sad story with resulting confusion for users reflects a fundamental failure of governance. This blog provides a one-stop shop for anyone looking to understand the governance, or lack of it. The next chapter in this saga will come later this week with the publication of the House of Lords report into the RPI.  Continue reading RPI – the background to the scandal

The UK’s “single market trade deficit”

I can see why many individual British businesses with established exports to the EU want the country to stay in the single market. The UK’s departure from it will be a change and, while the future might or might not offer more trading opportunities, change diverts corporate attention and can be disruptive. That said, from a national perspective – UK plc – the statistics show that the single market has increasingly been operating against the economic interests of the UK as a whole. In that macro sense, looking at the data, the single market is bad news as it’s driving the country’s ever-widening trade balance in goods. Continue reading The UK’s “single market trade deficit”

Ray Thomas

We all have a small number of people who heavily influence us. One of the big influences on my statistical thinking was Ray Thomas. I met him when we volunteered on several RSS committees. Sadly he died earlier this year. Links to some obituaries are below but his PhD thesis from 1999 is worth a read. The language and terms might be dated but “Statistics as facts about society” deals with many of the issues that plague us today.  Continue reading Ray Thomas

Not the dog’s b*ll*cks!

There was wonderful example of a “statistics meets news” car crash on the radio this morning. Take an interviewer who seems to be uncomfortable with numbers, poorly prepared by the editors/researchers, some statistics that were not published, presented by a lobby group that has not heard of open data or modern publishing standards, and you end up with an amusing but fundamentally totally groundless piece. People deserve better. The story about the demise of the bearded collie was classic #fakenews and was of little consequence but when the same standards of data spinning and innumeracy are applied to something important we all suffer.  Continue reading Not the dog’s b*ll*cks!

The end of Simon

What’s wrong with Simon, the name that is? It’s a good name. I’ve enjoyed having it. But it is seriously out of fashion and has been for a while. Prompted by the weird experience of finding myself sitting next to a much younger one at an event earlier this week, I was keen to see just how unpopular we have become. The answer is very unpopular.  Continue reading The end of Simon

The king and his fish: the RPI fairytale

The monthly release of the inflation figures (due tomorrow Wednesday 16th) is always a reminder of the futile attempts by ONS/UKSA to suppress the RPI. The RPI is the most popular statistic produced by the ONS (as measured by web hits, calls to ONS etc.) yet there’s no commentary on the RPI and the numbers do not appear in the 11 page press release. The breakdown of the RPI is hidden away in the back three pages of the 19 page data pack (just after the table that gives the rates for Lithuania, Slovakia and other EU states that the ONS presumably thinks are more interesting to users). To note the madness of this continuing practice, please find below a fairytale.  Continue reading The king and his fish: the RPI fairytale