Tag Archives: authority

After This Site suggested it, Tories are letting experts tackle Covid-19 instead of their chums

I know. It’s just a coincidence.

But isn’t it interesting that, the day after This Site asked, “Don’t you agree that giving control of the response to Coronavirus back to people who actually know what they’re doing might turn the tide?” the Tories are talking about doing just that?

I had suggested, “Let’s see the Tories reopen the contract system to multiple tenders, with assignments of Covid-related contracts going to the firms best-suited for the work. Or – indeed – to the public organisations and authorities best-placed to handle it.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick made the admission that this will happen on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today (October 11): “People who know their own community… are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers.”

Here’s the clip:

There’s an obvious question to be answered here:

Yes – why weren’t they used in the first place?

The obvious answer is that individuals within the Johnson government have corruptly and opportunistically used the pandemic as a chance to funnel cash to their fellow-Tory friends. Certainly there is a movement now to find out how much money has been wasted on so-called services that haven’t worked at all:

That question of wasted time is crucial because many people have died.

What happens if we find that those deaths happened because the Tories were giving money to their friends – for nothing – rather than to people who could actually keep that death toll down?

Will there be any accountability?

Or will Boris Johnson just shrug his shoulders, say “Now is not the time,” and forget about it?

For further information, here‘s the Mirror‘s piece.

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Statistics supremo slams misleading Tory Covid-19 test figures

Next time you watch a news report showing Tory statistics on the number of Covid-19 tests published out per day, bear in mind that the numbers are deliberately wrong – and that comes from the highest authority in the United Kingdom.

The Tories are hiding the facts about Covid-19 testing by blurring their definition of  test, in order to maximise the number of tests they can report. This comes from Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

This Writer has corresponded with the UKSA on several previous occasions and you can take it from me: if the UKSA is saying something, you can be sure it is right.

He’s saying the way the Tories present their results is deliberately obstructing the purpose for which they are supposed to be carried out.

“Statistics on testing perhaps serve two main purposes,” he writes.

“The first is to help us understand the epidemic, alongside the ONS survey, showing us how many people are infected, or not, and their relevant characteristics.

“The second purpose is to help manage the test programme, to ensure there are enough tests, that they are carried out or sent where they are needed and that they are being used as effectively as possible. The data should tell the public how effectively the testing programme is being managed.”

He continues: “The way the data are analysed and presented currently gives them limited value for the first purpose. The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.

“It is also hard to believe the statistics work to support the testing programme itself.”

Of course the obvious problem gets an airing: “The headline total of tests adds together the tests carried out with tests posted out… There are no data on how many of the tests posted out are in fact then successfully completed.”

And this has also been brought to public attention: “The notes to the daily slides rightly say that some people may be tested more than once and it has been widely reported that swabs carried out simultaneously on a single patient are counted as multiple tests. But it is not clear from the published data how often that is the case.”

Moving on to the way the tests are presented to the public, Sir David reveals that “this presentation gives an artificially-low impression of the proportion of tests returning a positive diagnosis” – because the number of tests carried out has been artificially inflated, you see.

“More generally the testing figures are presented in a way that is difficult to understand. Many of the key numbers make little sense without recourse to the technical notes which are themselves sometimes hard to follow… Supporting spreadsheets… make it difficult to extract even basic trends.”

Perhaps crucially, Sir David moves on to criticise information that is omitted from test reports: “How many people in what circumstances are infected? Where do they live?

“Test results should include for example key types of employment (e.g. medical staff, care staff), age, sex and location (by geography and place, such as care homes).”

The implication is clear: figures derived from the testing programme are no good at all.

And Sir David lays down a serious warning about the new “Test and Trace” scheme: “Statistics will need to be capable of being related to the wider testing data and readily understood by the public, through for example population-adjusted maps of hotspots.

“The testing statistics still fall well short of… expectations. It is not surprising that, given their inadequacy, data on testing are so widely criticised and often mistrusted.

Here’s Sir David’s letter:

The letter has prompted a strong response – including from some former Conservatives:

Will the Tories pay attention?

I think they probably will.

This is criticism from an incorruptible authority on statistics and, should an inquiry take place into government handling of Covid-19 (and I think one will), the Tories will need the UK Statistics Authority on their side.

If they don’t get that support, then they’ll be in serious trouble.

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Tory lies about Universal Credit are STILL being used – to harm vulnerable benefit claimants

‘Not all correct’: It turns out that the DWP’s ad campaign didn’t set the record straight… in other words, it was crooked.

A keystone of the Tory claim that Universal Credit makes lives better has been ruled misleading by an advertising watchdog – but is still being used to trick people into signing up for the failed “benefit”.

The claim – that “people move into work faster” under Universal Credit “fails to meet the basic standards of truthfulness and honesty that we demand of soap powder commercials”, according to Paul Morrissey, in a letter to The Guardian.

It was featured in a series of adverts that appeared in Metro and MailOnline.

But not only has it been used 67 times by Conservative MPs defending Universal Credit in Parliament (as well as in countless media interviews), it also indicates that officials in the DWP “seem to have been willing participants in attempts by the government to manipulate the evidence… rather than providing an objective analysis of its impact”, according to fellow scribe Alan Spence.

The claim breached the advertising code under rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration) – and the DWP has been “neither able to satisfactorily explain its actions or apologise for the harm they will have caused to the people who may have moved on to Universal Credit as a result”, according to Raji Hunjan, CEO of Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, the first anti-poverty charity to complain about the adverts.

She said the ruling had come too late, as the ad campaign has ended.

So Z2K has launched a public campaign calling for an apology from the DWP and an independent investigation into how and why these adverts came to be authorised.

Ms Hunjan wrote: “It is vital that we the public can trust government departments to be telling us the truth, particularly in being clear about their strategies to ensure that the social security system works as a safety net to reduce the numbers of people now living in poverty in the UK.

“Instead of using taxpayers’ money on a failed PR campaign, the DWP must now start engaging meaningfully with the widespread evidence of the impact of welfare reform on pushing people into poverty.”

Do you think it will?

This Writer would rather see punitive action taken against those within the DWP – and the Conservative Party – who thought it would be a wizard wheeze to publish a pack of lies.

I would also like to see the DWP broken up and a return to the more supportive ethos of the former Department for Social Security.

For that, we need a Labour government.

That’s a fact we can all trust.

Source: Untangling the lies told about universal credit | Letters | Society | The Guardian

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Automated benefit decisions: Councils are already using machines to persecute benefit claimants

Days after we discovered the DWP is developing Artificial Intelligence to decide whether vulnerable claimants receive benefits – possibly whether they get to live or die – it turns out local councils have been buying similar systems from commercial businesses.

And there’s a serious problem: they don’t work.

According to The Guardian, companies including the US credit-rating businesses Experian and TransUnion, as well as the outsourcing specialist Capita and Palantir, a data-mining firm co-founded by the Trump-supporting billionaire Peter Thiel, are selling machine-learning packages to local authorities that are under pressure to save money.

It seems 140 of 408 councils – more than one-third – have invested in these systems, at great cost. One must presume they expect the savings to come over time.

They provide automated guidance on benefit claims, prevent child abuse and allocate school places.

But concerns have been raised about privacy and data security, the ability of council officials to understand how some of the systems work, and the difficulty for citizens in challenging automated decisions.

North Tyneside council has dropped TransUnion, after payments were wrongly delayed by the computer’s “predictive analytics”.

It automatically processed data about claimants for housing and council tax benefit to determine the likelihood it was fraudulent – “risk based verification”. But benefit claims were wrongly delayed.

Hackney council in east London has dropped Xantura, another company, from a project to predict child abuse and intervene before it happens, saying it did not deliver the expected benefits.

And Sunderland city council has not renewed a £4.5m data analytics contract for an “intelligence hub” provided by Palantir.

These experiences are leading to increasing concern that the use of algorithms – computerised instructions intended to solve problems (or in this case make decisions) is leaving vulnerable people at the whim of automated decisions they do not understand and therefore cannot challenge.

Local authority bosses do not understand how these systems work either, it seems.

And so the injustices creep into the system.

The DWP has told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies – but is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

So, as public participation charity Involve claims, there is a risk to citizens’ privacy and data security, and the potential for seriously harmful wrong decisions.

Suppose someone falls foul of a wrong decision on their Housing Benefit claim, made by a computer at their local authority.

Wouldn’t the computer at the DWP pick it up and use it against the same claimant in order to invalidate a claim for – say – Employment and Support Allowance?

If so, these machines could put innocent people deeply out-of-pocket – with no explanation and no accountability.

It is a program that can have only one result – disaster. Somebody will die – if they haven’t already.

Source: One in three councils using algorithms to make welfare decisions | Society | The Guardian

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Study shows Tory policies are keeping homeless people from social housing

You see the way the Conservatives manipulate housing associations and local authorities to victimise the people they want to target?

By cutting the amount of social housing available – via the sale of council housing and strictures on the number of new houses that can be built – the Tories can ensure that nobody who is considered a financial risk can get a place.

Replacing perfectly workable benefits with Universal Credit – which is now known to further impoverish those in need – allowed the Tories to spread their net further.

People without families have been ruled out because of the Bedroom Tax – social landlords don’t want to rent out two-or-three-bedroom homes to single occupants who would lose money merely by living there.

But large families may also be a risk, due to the benefit cap.

And the Tories starve other services of funds – such as the NHS and local authority housing support – in order to prevent people with mental illnesses or other problems from qualifying.

Why?

One reason might be to “gentrify” certain areas – pushing up housing prices. Could it be that some Conservative Party members – or even MPs – are landlords in such housing zones?

Another may be more sinister: it is easy to let homeless people drop off government statistics. Then who cares if a tramp dies on the streets?

Or, indeed, if many do so.

Homeless people are being denied access to affordable housing because social landlords are routinely excluding prospective tenants who are deemed too poor or vulnerable to pay the rent, a study has revealed.

Research by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) found that “screening out” of homeless applicants nominated for newly available lets was widespread, as housing associations and local authorities increasingly ration their shrinking stocks of social homes.

In many cases nominees were refused a home because of the likelihood they would accrue major rent arrears after moving on to universal credit, because of the probability they would be hit by the bedroom tax or because the benefit cap had made them a financial risk.

Others were rejected after social landlords identified they had unmet mental health or addiction problems, often because of cuts to local NHS and housing support services. Individuals with unmet support needs were regarded as “too high a risk to tenancy sustainment”, the CIH said.

Toryism – what a disgusting, gangrenous, poisonous form of government.

Source: Homeless denied social housing for being too poor, study says | Society | The Guardian

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It’s a Tory total collapse as they are forced to accept every Labour amendment to the Budget

Labour could have moved that the Treasury be re-named “Philip Hammond is a dunce” and the government would probably have agreed to it.

Too harsh? Well, let’s be satisfied with the amendments to the Finance Bill on tax evasion, gaming duty and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – and with the promise that there is worse to follow for Theresa May and her cronies.

She had to capitulate because, if a vote had been taken and she lost, it would have been considered proof that her government does not have the confidence of the Commons. By convention, any government in such a position should resign and allow the main Opposition party a chance to form an administration.

Instead, Mrs May is now the head of a minority government, critically vulnerable to collapse if the Opposition parties demand a vote of “no confidence”, because the Democratic Unionist Party has withdrawn its support over her disastrous Brexit agreement with the EU.

As Mrs May is determined to have her deal or no deal, and the DUP’s MPs believe neither will support what they consider to be good for Northern Ireland, it seems unlikely that they will restore their support for her government.

I predict that if the current Brexit deal goes to a vote, Mrs May will lose badly. Labour may then demand a vote of “no confidence” in the Conservative Party’s ability to govern – and such a vote seems certain to topple the government.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was quick to capitalise on the situation. He said: “It’s absolutely staggering that the Government has accepted all Labour amendments to the Finance Bill because it couldn’t rely upon the DUP’s support. The Tories are in office but not in power. We’re watching a government falling apart in front of us.”

Mrs May is currently in Brussels, where she is probably begging the Eurocrats for latitude to resolve the impossible situation into which she has put herself – because we should all remember that this is a crisis entirely of the Conservative government’s own making.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond are both set to appear at the DUP’s conference over the weekend. If they think they can bully the Irish into backing them again, they’ll be in for a shock.

It has been great fun watching the drama play out on Twitter:

So the current situation can be summed up as follows:

https://twitter.com/MsParaDoxy/status/1064673997974065152

Of course we now know that Mrs May’s strings are being pulled by the Opposition parties – and any opportunity available (to mention the backdrop sign at the Tory conference) will be theirs.

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The Tories have been lying hard – instead of increasing education and local government funding, they’ve cut it by billions

Damian Hinds: He has been Education Secretary for less than a year but has managed to be rebuked four times for lying to the public.

There was a time when the Conservatives could expect to broadcast any old rubbish and expect it to be swallowed wholesale by a complicit media and a gullible public.

That time has passed.

The UK Statistics Authority has mauled Education Secretary Damian Hinds after he tried to lie to us about Tory cuts to school budgets. Here‘s the Mirror:

“Sir David Norgrove said he had “serious concerns about the Department for Education’s presentation and use of statistics”.

“Sir David highlighted four occasions that had caused the authority concern but stressed that there was no sign that ministers had learned from their mistakes.

“Ministers downplayed concerns from headteachers who marched on Parliament to protest school funding by insisting that the UK was “the third highest spender on education in the world”. Sir David [said] the original way it was presented used “a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools” to “give a more favourable picture”.

“The Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gobb wrote that, in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England “leapfrogged up the rankings last year, after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th.” Sir David said in this letter: “This is not correct. Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016.”

“[Sir David] also highlighted a recent tweet and blog from the department in which he said “figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding.” He explained that spending was “exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend”.

“In his speech to Tory party conference, Mr Hinds said that 1.9 million more kids are “studying in good or outstanding schools” under the Conservatives, prompting the Labour frontbencher to demand an investigation… Sir David said that while the claim was “accurate as far as it goes,” it had failed to “give a full picture” and should have been put in context with an overall rise in pupil numbers as well as changes to the way inspections are carried out.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner responded to the letter as follows: “This is a humiliating rebuke for Tory ministers. The Education Secretary has not even been in office for a year, yet this is the fourth time he has been caught by the government’s own watchdog making a claim that is wildly misleading or blatantly false.

“They need to come clean and stop deceiving the public in a desperate attempt to cover up their shocking record.

“They have used misleading figures on school funding to hide the fact that they have cut billions of pounds from school budgets, leaving head-teachers forced to beg for donations from parents to pay for books and stationary.

“And their claims on school standards are now in tatters. Instead of relying on discredited statistics they should use the Budget to invest in schools and genuinely improve standards.”

“The next Labour government will fairly fund all schools, as part of a National Education Service for the many, not the few.”

It does seem strange – doesn’t it? – that Mr Hinds should claim an increase in education budgets when schools are begging parents to pay for pupils’ pens, and head teachers are forced to choose between laying off staff and paying them for fewer hours in order to service a pay rise Mr Hinds announced but failed to properly fund.

On October 1, Treasury Minister Liz Truss told the BBC’s Newsnight that the Conservative government was not cutting funding to local government.

She said: “What we have done with local authorities is that they are able to raise much more money locally than they were before.

“We are not making cuts to local authorities. What we have done is give them more revenue raising powers so that decisions can be taken locally.

“It’s really important that local councillors are responsible for the decisions they make.”

She was saying the Tories have turned council funding into a postcode lottery, with services dependent on the property wealth of local residents.

And the Local Government Association spelled out the facts that Ms Truss was trying to hide:

“Main government grant funding for local services will be cut by a further £1.3 billion (36 per cent) in 2019/20 despite many councils already struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts.

“Almost half of all councils – 168 councils – will no longer receive any Revenue Support Grant [the primary source of central government funding] next year.

“Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services.

“The financial viability of some councils is now under threat and many others are increasingly unable to provide dignified care for our elderly and disabled, protect children, boost economic growth, fill potholes, build homes and much more.

Funding pressures and rising demand for services, such as adult and children’s social care and homelessness support, will leave local services in England facing a £3.9 billion funding black hole next year.

Still, it isn’t all bad.

If the Tories are lying about the amount of funding they are providing to services, they may also be lying about this:

How about it, Brandon Lewis? Let’s see your membership figures!

Fears of evictions as councils return money to help benefit cap victims with rent

Residents of Merthyr Tydfil, Anglesey, and Rhondda Cynon Taf in Wales have reason to be angry after their councillors sent back unspent money meant to keep benefit cap victims from eviction.

Merthyr Council handed back £40,000 – 19.2 per cent of its allocation – but denied funds to 231 applicants for Discretionary Housing Payments. That’s more than one-third of the total (668).

Councillors seem to be facing in both directions at once with their excuses.

Cllr Andrew Barry said the expected number of qualifying applicants, according to Conservative government policy, did not materialise.

But applicants who were denied the cash were left facing homelessness!

Clearly, something is wrong. If it’s the way councils are enacting the policy, they need to put their house in order. If it is government policy that is at fault, then it’s time to kick up a stink about it.

Three councils have been criticised for handing back money intended for people who are struggling to pay their rent.

Every year councils in Wales receive money from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to spend on discretionary housing payments (DHP).

Welsh councils were given a total of £9,749,151 in the last financial year – an increase of 24% compared with 2016/17 – to help people cope with changes to benefits.

Merthyr Tydfil said it was sending back £40,000 (19.2% of their allocation), Anglesey £23,501 (14.4%) and Rhondda Cynon Taf £13,493 (2%).

Merthyr council accepted 437 applications for DHP and refused 231.

Source: Criticism over unspent rent help money


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NHS bosses ordered trusts: Lie to the public about scale of winter crisis – claim

[Image: Science Photo Library.]

It seems we have all been deceived, and the scale of the crisis facing emergency medicine may be greater than first thought.

Emails from NHS Improvement told Trusts to boost their treatment figures by including data from walk-in centres, in conflict with guidance issued by NHS England in 2015.

It means trusts’ performance since last October, when the first email was sent, may have been artificially inflated.

The UK Statistics Authority has demanded an explanation.

Crucially, This Writer wants to know who ordered the changes – and why.

NHS hospital trusts in England may have to recalculate A&E performance figures from last October onwards.

The UK Statistics Authority has told NHS England to explain changes to the recording of A&E data.

It says the changes – highlighted by BBC News – could have left people reaching “misleading conclusions”.

They raise questions over some trusts’ performance on the highest profile NHS performance target – that patients in A&E are seen within four hours.

The official target requires 95% of patients to be treated, assessed or discharged within four hours, a figure the NHS has failed to meet since July 2015.

A hospital trust’s performance figures include the main accident and emergency department (known as Type 1) and minor injuries or care centres (known as Type 3).

These centres tend to see and treat patients a lot more quickly than those needing emergency care.

Data in these clinics tends to pull up the overall performance of a trust. This is confirmed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

The BBC has seen emails sent by NHS Improvement, the body responsible for overseeing trusts, in October last year.

The implication is that including these centres would help improve overall performance.

This, and another email sent later in October by NHS Improvement, was seen by trusts as a request to add in data from walk-in centres not run by them and not on hospital grounds.

This is in direct conflict with clear guidance issued in November 2015 by NHS England, which says walk-in centre data can be included only if the trust has clinical responsibility for the service or if it co-located on the trust’s grounds.

Source: A&E stats may have to be recalculated


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Labour reports Boris Johnson to statistics watchdog over ‘misleading’ comments about Brexit

Boris Johnnson has not only stood by the controversial figure but now says it is too low [Image: Leon Neal, used by the Daily Mirror].

Misleading? It’s a downright lie.

Here’s the background, from the Daily Mirror:

Labour have reported Boris Johnson to the UK’s statistics watchdog, after he said the discredited claim that leaving the EU would mean Britain gets £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS was an under-estimate.

The Foreign Secretary claimed the official Vote Leave campaign could have used an even higher figure on their infamous red bus during the referendum campaign.

He said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”

Mr Johnson claimed the UK’s gross contribution would increase to £438 million by the end of the proposed transition period in 2021.

Here‘s the letter from Keir Starmer to Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority:

Foreign Secretary’s comments about the UK’s financial contribution to the EU

I am writing to seek clarification on comments made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday [15 January] about the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union (EU).

In an interview with The Guardian the Foreign Secretary said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”

The newspaper reports that “Johnson argued that the UK’s EU contribution was already up to £362m per week for 2017-18 and would rise annually to £410m, £431m, and then to £438m by 2020-21 – ‘theoretically the last year of the transition period.’”

The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading. For example, in September of last year the Statistics Authority wrote to the Foreign Secretary saying, “it is a clear misuse of official statistics.” And yet, Mr Johnson has chosen to repeat this statement and expand on the claim even further. I do not believe this to be acceptable.

I would therefore be grateful if you could make a statement on the accuracy of the Foreign Secretary’s most recent comments.

This Writer can’t wait for the reply. Can you?


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