Three words for the Coalition: Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics!

Mr Osborne probably couldn't help him. It's possible the Coalition's maths problems have been caused by the fact that a towel-folder is in charge of the economy.

Mr Osborne probably couldn’t help him. It’s possible the Coalition’s maths problems have been caused by the fact that a towel-folder is in charge of the economy.

Back in 2010, when he still thought he could win an election fairly, David Cameron mocked Tony Blair’s famous “Education, education, education” speech by saying he could sum up his priorities in three letters: “N-H-S.”

He was, as we have discovered with Mr Cameron, completely wrong. He did need three words after all.

Mr Cameron’s priorities should have been: “Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics.”

Here’s why:

Sticking with the medical theme, it turns out that the government’s figures on the number of new midwives entering the NHS are inaccurate.

Before the general election, according to the BBC website, Mr Cameron promised to increase the number of midwives by 3,000. Despite creating 5,000 training places, however, this has not been translated into jobs and figures from the Royal College of Midwives show the number of midwives in employment has increased by just 145.

Challenged by this on his weekly radio show, Nick Clegg said the government had not deceived anyone but was putting more money into ensuring there are more midwives who are properly qualified to work in the NHS.

Anyone can see that this is not what Mr Cameron promised. Was the government deceiving us? Or was it incompetent and simply got its sums wrong?

Let’s look at another example: The government’s so-called ‘troubled families tsar’, Louise Casey, has admitted its claim that there are 120,000 such families in the UK is inaccurate. “The number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to an interview in The Guardian.

In fact, her initiative has been working with 23,000 families and has succeeded with 1,675 – whose children are now attending school regularly and not committing crime, while the adults have found work, triggering a £4,000 bonus for local councils dealing with each of these families.

More disturbing was the claim that, “if we take that 120,000 figure, give it to local authorities, give them the criteria behind troubled families, and they can populate it, which they have done, with real names, real addresses, real people – then I am getting on with the job”.

Hang on! Is she saying that she’ll shoehorn families into her definition of ‘troubled’, whether they qualify or not, just to make up the numbers?

Finally, the BBC revealed today that the Benefit Cap, limiting the amount of state benefit available for British households to £500 per week, will affect far fewer households than originally estimated.

The government said 56,000 households would have their benefits reduced – by an average of £93 per week. This would save £275 million per year. In fact, it now expects only 40,000 to be affected. That’s a drop of nearly 29 per cent – not 25 per cent, as the BBC article, itself, inaccurately states. Perhaps reporter Ross Hawkins got his figures from the government.

This means the saving goes down to around £196,500,000.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the change is because more people are seeking help to get into work, but this won’t wash. If they’re seeking help, they haven’t actually found work.

Could this be another situation like we had recently, when Grant Shapps claimed the number of people claiming ESA had dropped by 878,000 since new assessment criteria came in, only for it to be revealed that this was perfectly normal with such claims, and the people who had dropped off had either got better or found work they could do despite their disability (in other words, they had complied with the terms of the benefit and found a way not to have to claim it), or they had died?

Number-crunchers will be watching these figures carefully.

If we are to draw any conclusion from this, it is that this Coalition government is extremely cavalier about the figures it uses to support its policies.

To summarise: The Coalition cannot be trusted to do its sums properly.

Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics, Mr Cameron. We all guessed you wouldn’t understand its importance when you appointed class dunce Michael Gove as Education Secretary.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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4 thoughts on “Three words for the Coalition: Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics!

  1. Sam

    Numbers, alarmingly something the coalition hasn’t got to grips with, and they were mostly educated at private schools, I’d ask for a refund!!

  2. Jj

    The government do have a very selective method for how they present their figures. Typically they’re erroneous, but even when they’re accurate they abuse the presentation style. I recall, not that long ago, they were claiming glory over a reduction in Jobseeker’s allowance claims and it was between 1,000-2,000, which reads great as a number but when I calculated it from the total claimant count, it was less than 1%.
    You could argue that it’s fair to present your data in whichever style you prefer, but the truth is you find single releases contain mixtures of numbers, percentages and fractions, adopting whichever infers the most impact but offers least true representation.
    I cannot wait for the unofficial analysis of the year two Work Programme performance outcome figures. It’s going to make for fun reading seeing how this year’s sow’s ear is really a silk purse.

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