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Wednesday 14 July 2010

A Stroll Across The Astroturf – 15

The fallout from cancelling the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has continued: now it seems that local authorities committed some 160 millions to the scheme, which is now lost. Moreover, contractors have also put up and lost about another 100 millions. So that’s 260 million quid, well, wasted.

Hang on a minute, isn’t there a non partisan group committed to calling out waste? Well, yes there is, and it’s our old friends at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance. So they must already be on the case, yes?

Well, actually, make that a no. They haven’t even raised a murmur about it. After all, the TPA (which, as we all know, is not close to the Tory party, despite many of its members also being paid up Tories) has much more important fish to fry.

Such as its latest “report”, complete with “research”, compiled jointly with its offshoot called the “Drivers’ Alliance”, which has lots of “figures” about speed cameras. As with the “report” about parking fines, it fails to mention the awkward question of cost, which makes it appear that all those speeding fines collect themselves.

And it comes to a staggeringly wrong conclusion, that the appearance of speed cameras has stopped the decline in the number of road accidents and therefore casualties. The TPA contends that speed cameras have caused more casualties on the roads.

The laughably slanted “research” makes one central – and, to no surprise, unstated – assumption in reaching this conclusion, and that is that all speed cameras appeared at the same time. As they didn’t, the “research”, including a spurious but very serious looking regression analysis, is effectively worthless.

No consideration is given to how cars were made safer over time (and when the greatest advances in this field were made), nor is there any consideration of other road traffic (the “research” uses passenger kilometres, and therefore does not consider the effect of all those lorries). Nor is any consideration given to the economic situation over time.

If one didn’t know better, the thought might occur that the “research” has been tailored to make a good fit with the required conclusion. Unfortunately, though, the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate uses the TPA’s “research” to provide cheap and easy space fillers, rather than indulging in such things as Proper Journalism.

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