Brendan Cooper – Professor Shut Up

One of the attractions of Twitter is that it gives people the ability to have a dialogue with people who are generally used to broadcasting. One of the downsides is that you can engage with people in a civil way but they can block you without reason. Their choice I guess.

I challenged Professor Dr Brendan Cooper, President of the Academy for Healthcare Science, on his very political comparison of current Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt with Labour hero Nye Bevan. His response was to block me. He could have made his case. If he was busy he could have ignored me. Fair enough. Blocking someone making an argument is the equivalent of yelling “Shut up”. Nice one professor.

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Full Fact fails to spot Jeremy Corbyn’s dishonest data picking first time

I have a lot of time for Full Fact, the independent fact checking charity. We need them.

Yesterday though they cocked up and fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book – it is called data picking. Choosing the data to suit your argument. We all do it to some extent but you can usually spot it, or stop yourself doing it, if you look at the wider data to see if the factoid being pushed at you is reasonable or relies on a quirk in the data.

On Wednesday at Prime Minister’s question time Jeremy Corbyn came out with a dishonest factoid that was based on just such data picking. He said:

The amount of tax paid by the super-rich in income tax has fallen from 4.4 billion to 3.5 billion since 2009.

Oh dear you might think. Killer factoid. The Tories are bang to rights. Well, no.

Unfortunately yesterday Full Fact fell for Corbyn’s trick and they pushed out a piece that said, yes, he was right and tweeted this link to it at 11.05am with a graphic, since withdrawn.

As soon as I saw the tweet I knew exactly the trick that had been played. The data had been distorted by changes to the highest rate of tax, 50% on incomes over £150,000, introduced in April 2010. And then reduced to 45% in April 2013. Wealthy individuals took their income in 2009/2010 rather than 2010/2011 to benefit from the 40% rate. Hence the tax take dropped from £4.4 billion to £2.8 billion. The opposite happened three years later when the rate went back down to 45%. People deferred their income which meant the tax take went up from £2.6 billion to £3.9 billion. You can see the effect of the rate changes quite clearly in the chart below. The tax take from the wealthiest is creeping up.

£3 billion in 2011/2012.
Average of £3.25 billion the next two years.
£3.5 billion in 2014/2015.

To their credit Full fact withdrew their earlier piece and replaced it with one that was much more fact-ey. Well done. Beware of data picking.

Posted in Facts and data - and fibs about them | 2 Comments

The Labour MP going after the Grenfell inquiry judge has some questions of her own to answer

It seems new Kensington MP, Emma Dent Coad, is one of the pack of Labour politicians going after Sir Martin Moore-Bick who has been asked to lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

I find it strange that Dent Coad’s past involvement with the company that runs Kensington and Chelsea’s council housing stock does not get mentioned in her numerous media interviews. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) is responsible for the management of the borough’s housing stock – including Grenfell Tower. KCTMO is constituted as a limited company registered as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation at Companies House (company number 03048135). Dent Coad was a full director of the company from 2008-2012 with all the legal responsibilities that implies.

The powers and responsibilites of the KCTMO directors are laid out in its Articles of Association. The relevant sections are reproduced below:

Their responsibilities are to see that the company is run properly and extend to being able to hire and fire senior staff.

You would think that if KCTMO was so broken when Dent Coad stopped being a director in 2012 she might have blown the whistle on it in a systematic and peristent way. I have searched for evidence of Dent Coad having written or being quoted in relation to fire safety in North Kensington and it is hard to find very much.

For instance, on her own blog Dent Coad has written 125 pieces over eight years 2000-2007. Only once did she obliquely mention fire safety in relation to people breaking into to fire escapes in properties run by a housing association called Catalyst.

I will be very interested to learn of Emma Dent Coad’s record of raising fire safety issues before the Grenfell tragedy. She has rightly been vocal since but she has been presented as if she has no history. Although Dent Coad is a new MP she has been a councillor in North Kensington for 11 years so she should be able to point to a record of raising fire safety issues before now.

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Labour’s Land Value Tax would be excruciating for London

On page 86 of its manifesto Labour raises the prospect of a Land Value Tax (LVT):

A Labour government will give local government extra funding next year. We will initiate a review into reforming council tax and business rates and consider new options such as a land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term.

I did the calculation for my house. My current council tax is £2,270. Under Labour’s LVT proposals this would go up to £5,890, a rise of £3,620 or 160%. It would be excruciating for my family. Finding £3,620 out of an already reduced after tax income would effectively mean the end of holidays or a move to a smaller property.

It is quite easy to do this calculation for yourself. Get your property value off Zoopla. Multiply by 0.55 to get an estimate of the value of the undeveloped land. Multiply 0.0085 to get the tax you would pay. The rate of 0.85% comes from proposers of the tax themselves.

It is no good Labour claiming that this is scaremongering. They have raised the proposal and stated the rate. We know it has to be a large amount because they themselves are presenting it as a get out of free jail card for local government finance. Here is a mechanism that will allow Labour to pump vast funds into its local government clients without affecting headline tax rates for regular people.

The 1%ers will pay! Unfortunately that means anyone who has struggled to buy a property in London. Good luck on Thursday!

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The Royal College of Surgeons is an unreliable witness

I don’t blog so much nowadays – trying to get on with the rest of my life. But, a story I heard on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning piqued my interest. A 24% increase in dental extractions in young children. Shocking if true!

The BBC website story was headlined:

  • Baby teeth removals ‘up 24% in a decade’

Where did it come from?

It turns out to be one those public affairs generated, producer interested, made up stories – this time from the Royal College of Surgeons. The headline on their press release is eye catching and simply spits in the eye of scientific rigour:

  • Shocking 24% increase in tooth extractions performed on children aged 0-4 in last decade

You can see the BBC website’s headline was essentially a cut down version of the one they were spoon fed in the RCS press release swallowing their 24% number and adding the word baby for effect.

The number is entirely bogus. The press release itself admits the relevant population increased 16% so the overall extraction rate is only up 7% by my maths. The BBC website story fails to mention the context of the rising population and is essentially fake news with a bit of sugar propaganda attached.

Although the Radio 4 news headlines kept referring to the 24% number the 16% rise in population was only mentioned once or twice in the whole Today programme. No-one on Today managed to do the maths and tell people the real rate rise of 7%.

The Telegraph put the story on its front page today but managed to put the 16% relevant population increase on its front page too along with a much more measured headline:

  • Rise in removals of rotting milk teeth fuelled by children’s sugary diet

The RCS talked about a decade in their press release but only included 9 years rise – you need 11 year’s worth of data to be able to talk about a decade after your base year.

Both the RCS and BBC are proving unreliable here. The Telegraph much better.

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The EU’s poor record on free trade agreements

I quite often listen to James O’Brien on LBC. He can be quite entertaining in spite of his reflex leftism. This morning I heard O’Brien roasting some bloke on Brexit and talking about the EU having 50 free trade agreements (FTAs). He compared it unfavourably with the UK which starts off with none. He quoted Full Fact approvingly (as I would typically).

He did rather immolate the chap he was talking to and made no attempt to be even handed. On close inspection the EU’s list of FTAs doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and I think Full Fact could have done a better job of dissecting the EU’s record on FTAs. First off only 34 of the FTAs are in force. For instance, the long delayed Canadian deal has to wait until March this year for provisional application.

Looking down the list four FTAs are with bits of the UK – Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey and the Sovereign bases on Cyprus. I think we can replicate those!

Nine of the EU’s FTAs are with bits of EFTA and funny old bits of the EU itself which are all in the customs union: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland and the EU’s own Overseas Countries and Territories.

Six FTAs are with relatively tiny Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia).

Only seven of the EU’s currently in force FTAs are with large (top 50 by GDP according IMF 2016 data) non-EU/EFTA countries. They are South Korea (11th), Mexico (15th), Turkey (18th), Egypt (33rd), Israel (35th), South Africa (41st) and Chile (45th). Indeed if you add in the five other top 50 non-EU/EFTA countries in various stages of ratification (Canada (10th), Nigeria (26th), Singapore (40th), Colombia (42nd) and Vietnam (48th)) you get 12 countries with a combined GDP of 9% of global GDP.

It is instructive to see where the EU have no trade deals. The list is long:

USA (1st and 25% of global GDP)
China (2nd and 15% of global GDP)
Japan (3rd and 6% of global GDP)
India (7th and 3% of global GDP)
Brazil (9th and 2% of global GDP).

Indeed the EU has no FTA with, and no immediate prospect of achieving one with, some 20 of the 50 largest countries by GDP, which represent 38% of global GDP.

The UK only has to do deals with the EU (23% of global GDP) and the USA (25% of global GDP) to tie up half of the world’s trade. Doing a deal with the EU should be straightforward as we accept the EU’s acquis and there seems to be political support for a deal from the USA.

It is worth considering that free trade with the USA has been a core economic interest for the UK for the length of its 44 year membership of the EC/EU. The fact that there has been no deal demonstrates how lowly British strategic interests are in the priorities of the EU. Consider too that one of the vaunted “Four Freedoms”, a free market in services, another core, strategic economic interest of the UK has not been completed either after 44 years.

We are better off out and those bigging up the EU’s record in pushing forward free trade are ignoring how thin the EU’s record is.

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Labour pushed up rail fares much faster than now

For the last couple of days Labour and its fellow travellers in ostensibly neutral campaign groups such as Campaign for Better Transport have been complaining loudly about rail fare rises in line with longstanding government policy. In particular Labour is trying to nail on this 27% fare rises under the Tories number.

I was wondering where this came from and how Labour did when it was in charge.

You can get the basic data at the Office of Rail and Road NRT Data Portal.

The “All tickets” index at the bottom of the sheet has moved from 176.5 in January 2010 to 218.7 in January 2016. They have inflated the 218.7 value by 2.3% (the widely quoted inflation figure for this year). This gets you to 27% in seven years 2010 to 2017. So at least Labour have used a transparent, straightforward and reasonable way of getting to their number.

How did Labour perform when it was in government? In 2003 the “All tickets” index was at 126.2. Seven year later in 2010 it was at 176.5. This gives a 40% increase in the same length of time. So Labour was much worse. Funny how they think that nationalisation under the least competent leader they have had post war is going to make things better.

All recent governments have tried to push the burden of rail costs onto passengers which, in my view, is fair enough. All recent governments have used RPI rather than CPI which is harsh. The policy has been in place since 2004. From 2004 to 2013 the limit on regulated fares was RPI+1. For the last four years the limit has been RPI. Inflation is what it is but one reason the Conservatives have outperformed Labour is that they took 4.06% out of the rise by their own choice.

We don’t hear Sadiq Khan (who was a Labour transport minister in 2009 and 2010 when Labour were asking more from commuters than the Conservatives are now) apologising for his role is Labour’s rinsing of rail commuters.

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Brexit fun and games in Ealing last night

I was unimpressed by the Ealing councillors choosing to spend their time debating Brexit at the year’s last full council meeting last night. It is way above their pay grade – this kind of motion always did my head in when I was a councillor.

It is hard to work out from the Gazette’s report what went on. Seemingly the Labour councillors and Labour Central Ealing and Acton MP Rupa Huq are not on the same page. It is understandable that Rupa Huq was typically hissy to the LibDems and Jon Ball who is a councillor in the Ealing Common ward that sits in her current constituency. With her tiny majority of 274 (the 7th tiniest majority in the country) you can see how Huq needs to keep the LibDems at bay. If they position themselves as being the Remain vote in 2020 in Ealing they will hoover up her votes.

It is hard though to see why the Labour councillors effectively repudiated Rupa Huq and would not support her Remainiac position. That is until you see the results of the EU referendum broken down by ward (I know the figures aren’t all directly comparable because some include postal votes and some don’t).

If you look at the various areas as groups you get:

  • Acton 68% remain
  • Southfield 76% remain (LibDem stronghold, part of Chiswick)
  • Greater Ealing 69% (everything else East and South of the River Brent)
  • Greenford 51% remain (but with 2 out of 3 wards marginally leave)
  • Northolt 49% remain (with Northolt West End being the leaviest ward in the borough)
  • Perivale 54% remain
  • Southall 53% remain (with South Green and Southall Broadway being only just 50% remain)

So, with those parts of Ealing Southall west of the River Brent and those parts of Ealing North north of the River Brent so marginal in Brexit terms, we can expect to see these two MPs keep totally quiet on Brexit. And, as we saw last night, the majority of Labour councillors (33 councillors in 11 wards that are substantially Leavey) want to change the subject too.

On the other hand Rupa Huq in Ealing Central and Acton can scream and scream until she is sick. Indeed she needs to make sure the LibDems don’t take Remain votes off her so she has nothing to lose by doing this.

It is amazing though how voting patterns in the Borough are dictated by an ancient feature of physical geography – the River Brent.

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Onkar Sahota’s £7 million property portfolio

Labour Assembly Member Onkar Sahota defended himself and his 11 properties at the CCA Hustings last week by saying that he had “worked hard to get them”. I am sure he did, or at least his tenants did.

Dr Sahota didn’t take the opportunity to own up to having any more houses. Maybe he has more, who knows? He certainly isn’t telling.

I found Sahota’s properties in the course of my research into his business. As I explained earlier this month he could have made a transparent declaration of his extensive property portfolio, as his Labour colleague Len Duvall has, in his disclosure pecuniary interests at City Hall. But that really isn’t his style. He actively lied to Hanwell parents at St Mark’s Primary School about his ownership of the land next to their school.

I don’t want to list the 8 addresses covering 11 properties that Sahota owns but just to show that I have paid for the 8 Land Registry titles that cover these properties I list the Land Registry title numbers below.

Dr Sahota owns four private houses in Ealing (NGL255900), Cranford (NGL218163), Isleworth (AGL27751) and Southall (MX82170). Looking at these houses and adjacent ones on zoopla.co.uk I estimate that these four houses together are worth £4 million.

Dr Sahota personally owns a 100% stake in Investments 360 Limited which owns the two buildings that his business operates out of (AGL122490 and NGL35037). According to the accounts of Healthcare 360, which again Sahota owns 100%, the company pays £105K per annum rent. Working back from a commercial yield of 6% for this kind of property implies a value of £1.75 million.

Dr Sahota has previously tried to get “offers in excess of £1,000,000” for his D1 property at 42 Lower Boston Road (AGL153372) rather than sell it to the council so that they can expand St Mark’s Primary School. He bought this for £730K in May 2006. It is probably worth £1 million but he is gunning for much more if he can get planning permission for change of use. Anyway it certainly is worth £1 million now.

D1 use class

Finally, Dr Sahota owns four flats in Southall (NGL550500) designated as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). It is hard to value these as they don’t change hands much and they are probably very small, poorly maintained flats above shops on a busy road. But all four can’t be worth less than £500K.

Taken together Onkar Sahota’s property portfolio is worth at least £7 million.

Earlier this month Onkar Sahota gave the Gazette a dull biography that he has used before and listed five priorities:

Sahota's priorities

It is no use Sadiq Khan and Onkar Sahota burbling on about housing if people like Sahota are going to hoard property on such a grand scale.

Posted in Ealing and Northfield | 1 Comment

Gazette falls for bogus Ealing Hospital petition

Gazette Front Page 22-4-2016

The Ealing Gazette’s front page today talks about “the Government” rejecting a debate on a petition on Ealing Hospital. In fact the petition was rejected by a committee of the House of Commons chaired by a Labour MP, Helen Jones. I suspect that one of the reasons that the committee rejected the idea of a debate is that the petition looks like it has been gamed. In other words Labour, Momentum or NHS activists, probably a mixture of all, across the country have been signing even though they live miles from Ealing Hospital.

The Gazette refers to over 100,000 signatures. The final total when the petition was closed was 100,229. You can see the underlying data in the petition by following this link.

First off 38 of the signatures came from outside the country. It is nice that people from as far afield as Argentina and Egypt are interested in Ealing Hospital but really?

Signatures from people living in 638 constituencies were received; that is almost every Parliamentary constituency.

The numbers for the three Ealing constituencies were:

Ealing numbers

Between the three Labour MPs in Ealing they managed to rustle up less than 1,000 signatures on this apparently vital issue. For all Stephen Pound’s blustering that there is “something rotten in the state of the NHS in Ealing” he could only get 321 people in his constituency to agree with him. Rupa Huq achieved a laughable 58.

Over 1000

There are 21 constituencies that produced more than 1,000 signatures. None are in London let alone Ealing. Between them these 21 constituencies they contributed one third of the signatures.

It looks to me like a group of activists are making a lot of noise and the Gazette has fallen for it. The campaign has obviously been shared on social media with a wide range of people who have nothing to do with Ealing.

Are the Ealing MPs colluding in this deception or are they equally unaware of how unrepresentative this petition was?

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