Meanwhile on Planet Babergh- Precision v. Accuracy

We’ve all had those days when we were much younger, when our boss asked us to produce a five/ten/twenty year forecast of whatever was taking his fancy at the time. The forecast would take into account economic cycles, inflationary expectations, disposable incomes, family sizes and so on. To make it credible all assumptions should be detailed and justified.
I suspect that something like that happened recently in Babergh & Mid Suffolk’s housing department when someone was asked to produce a twenty-year plan for housebuilding based on whatever factors were deemed relevant.
The answer is 17,568 homes over twenty years.
Note the precision.
Who believes this rubbish? In the real world our boss would have either called it 17,500 or being a clever sort, he might have said 15,000 so he could under promise and over deliver. If he was on the brink of an unwelcome retirement, he would have rounded the figure up to 25,000 so that his successors would be forever on the wrong end of target fulfillment.  
But he would have realized early on that the further away you are from the present the less reliable is your forecast and the more precise it is, the more it will attract criticism & derision.

Unfortunately, many of our public servants do not review their public utterances – hence precision taking precedence over accuracy and unreliable statistics rule our lives.

Stewards or Leaders

Yesterday’s (6th August) Daily Telegraph contained an above average gem count. Statue of the Celtic queen who lead a violent uprising against the Romans around 60 and met a bad (but uncertain) end. Since her forces brunt London to the ground and killed everyone who had not fled the city, it isn't clear to me why she rates such a heroic statue. James Quinn in the Business Section reflected on the quality of leadership in a number of companies and classified Chief Executive Officers as “Stewards” or “Leaders”. Stewards as the classification suggests take the organisation forward by managing the existing business. Leaders on the other hand take that existing business and manage it for future challenges. Quinn’s advice is to follow leaders. The classification can also be seen in local government where some political leaders are really stewards (and tend to be bad stewards at that) and see their role as providing political legitimacy for the officers’ wishes. Others provide political leadership and make sure the officers follow the political directions. One can see this in Planning at District Level where the Planning Departments implement their own policies regarding the location of housing, manufacturing and other businesses without due regard to the wishes or the wellbeing of the individual communities they serve. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard provided an analysis of the oil industry. As fast as oil prices fell due to overproduction by Opec, the shale producers (in the U.S.) were able to cut their costs. Whilst the North American rig count has dropped (from 1608 in October to 664), oil production in the U.S.  has risen to a 43 year high of 9.6 million barrels per day in June. Elsewhere Allister Heath quotes from John Maynard Keynes’ “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” which predicted that by 2030 humanity would be eight times better off than they were in 1930. There are problems, of course: millions of unskilled workers are finding it much harder to keep up; the well-paid blue-collar jobs of the past no longer exist, and routine service-sector jobs may soon be automated. But to highlight these problems isn’t to condemn capitalism: we need better education strategies to counter low productivity. We also need better monetary policies that don’t cause endless booms and busts. But we mustn’t ignore the lessons of the past and reject capitalism, the greatest poverty alleviation mechanism ever created.

The image was originally posted to Flickr by Aldaron at


Last week the Joint Standards Committee of Babergh and Mid Suffolk issued an Advice Note  “‘Blogging’ & Social Network Sites”. Nearly five hundred words of what should be obvious. Of course  we all have to observe the Seven Principles of Public Life; selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
However, some of the advice seems to encourage an atmosphere where personalities and  policies do not matter and thus honest debate is silenced. For example:

  • make political points, but be careful not to be too specific or personal if referring to individuals
  • general comments about another political party or genuine political expression are less likely to be disrespectful than comments directed towards or about an individual

Where is the respect for the people when their representative is hypocritical, misleading or less than competent. Local politics like many organisations can be maelstrom of ideas being advanced and like it or not it can be a zero sum game. If there is only a limited amount of money to be distributed why should monies go to the Dance East Boys in Babergh programme in preference to Home-Start Babergh? The Boys in Babergh programme speaks for itself. Home-Start Babergh  is an independent charity that operates as part of Home-Start UK. They recruit, train and provide volunteers that work with families in times of need.
More importantly their support is given through home visits by volunteers and through support group meetings, where children can play together, supervised by a play leader, whilst parents meet with each other and with Home-Start staff. In many cases, their support is complementary to that of the professional agencies. Their volunteers are there for the family as a friend and confidant during a time of stress or difficulty. See:
Similarly why should the Dance East Boys in Babergh programme take precedence over the Kernos Centre. It provides counselling and support services to people with emotional and psychological difficulties from a wide variety of causes.
One of the main aims of counselling is to guide people from feeling victims of circumstance to feeling they have some control over our lives. See:
So, returning to the advice from the Joint Standards Committee: I hear what they say but it will not stop me from speaking out in a forthright and robust manner when I deem it appropriate.