Numbers Game, June 2016

23 May 16

Facts and figures from the June 2016 edition of Public Finance magazine, on Freedom of Information requests, the relative popularity of chancellors of the Exchequer, ethnic minorities, GDP growth and the CPI measure of inflation

Quick wins


Tired ideas: The average British adult sleeps for 6.8 hours a night, much less than the 7.7 they feel they need, according to a Populus poll on behalf of the Royal Society for Public Health. The gap is equivalent to a whole sleepless night every week.

Gross quote: The UK Statistics Authority criticised Vote Leave for stating that £350m paid weekly to the EU should be spent on the NHS. It said net payments to the EU last year were £110m per week.

Wealth helps: A Nuffield Trust/IFS study found male graduates from high-income families earn 30% more than others a decade after graduation. Without the effects of subject and college, they still earned 10% more.


Access denied

FOI graph IfG

Some interesting data on the results of Freedom of Information requests since 2010 has been published by the Institute for Government. The first graph shows that the volume of requests has remained relatively consistent, with a gentle peak in 2013 visible in the rolling fourth-quarter average.


FOI graph 2 IfG

This second graph provides quite a contrast, therefore. It charts the number of requests that have been turned down in full by five central government departments and it is not hard to discern a steadily rising trend towards reduced openness.

The graph shows the five departments that rejected the greatest proportion of FoI requests in the last quarter of 2015; HMRC fully withheld data for 69% of requests. The Scottish Office was the most open, fully withholding data in only 5% of cases.

The Cabinet Office, which assumed responsibility for FoI policy in July 2015, made almost as much use as HMRC of the various exemptions and exceptions that allow it to withhold data.


Chancellor ratings


Chancellor approval ratings Ipsos MORI

Public satisfaction with chancellor George Osborne has bounced up and down like Zebedee during his tenure, at least according to data collected by Ipsos Mori, which recently published approval ratings for chancellors dating back to Denis Healey in 1976.

The rating is derived by subtracting the percentage of respondents who are dissatisfied from the percentage who are satisfied.

Chancellors are seldom popular. Norman Lamont and Kenneth Clarke never strayed into positive territory and, while Gordon Brown enjoyed long periods in the pink, his successor Alistair Darling saw only negative numbers. Osborne’s various bright periods, during the odd ray of fiscal sunshine, have never lasted.


Minority report


BME people in public jobs HoC

The 2015 Annual Population Survey from the ONS indicates that 13% of people in the UK have an ethnic minority background. A House of Commons briefing paper published in March compared this figure with the proportion found in various walks of public life.

Both houses of parliament have only about half the number of non-white representatives needed to properly reflect the UK electorate. In England, where the ethnic minority proportion is higher at 14.7%, local councillors including London Assembly members are 96% white.

London’s Metropolitan Police, with 11.7% non-white officers, is the most diverse police force in the UK. In aggregate across England and Wales, 94.5% of police officers are white, rising to 96.6% among the ranks of chief inspectors and above.

In the NHS, 17.3% of staff are from ethnic minorities. Among clinical staff , the proportion is 40.2%, falling slightly at the highest medical grades, but the number is only 8.4% among NHS managers.


First service


ONS growth figs April estimates

There are severe forecasting problems in the construction industry, a difficulty borne out by April's GDP estimates from the Office for National Statistics. Construction productivity has see-sawed, with greater variance than other areas and has yet to return to its pre-downturn level.

Industrial production, which includes manufacturing, remains below 2008 levels – the past three quarters even show a slight decline.

The parallel tracks of overall GDP and the services sector show the UK recovery to be services led. As the ONS notes, it is the only area where output has risen above its pre-downturn peak.


Expanding inflation


The Consumer Price Index has been rising gradually since October 2015, although it remains well below both historical trends and the government’s 2% target.

The CPI increase stood at 0.5% for the 12-month period up to March 2016, compared with a 0.3% rise for the year to February.

The downward tug on inflation continues to come from falling or stable prices of food and nonalcoholic drinks, transport, and recreational and cultural goods and services, the ONS reports.

At the same time, there has been an upward thrust from other goods and services, most notably from tuition fees, as well as rising charges in the hospitality sector.

The rise in hotel and restaurant bills predates the introduction of the national living wage, any direct impact of which won’t be seen until next month’s numbers at the earliest.



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