The leader of the Labour opposition group on the council, Cllr Julian Bell, is a prize booby. He likes to make a show of himself at least three times a week. One of his finer moments this week were his quotes in the Ealing Times:
I would say to the council no more excuses, we need to get this sorted out.
They have said they are using a new computer system and new reporting measures as excuses to why they have been slow in the past, but it’s time to stop.
As you can see from the example of St Albans, the best performing authority, if there is a real will to turn things round you can do it.
He was responding to a typically statistically challenged article written by the Ealing Times’s Alex Hayes. Hayes had noticed figures released on Monday in response to a question by Tory MP Andrew Selous. These showed showed it took Ealing on average 45 days for a new housing benefit claim to be processed, the fifth slowest in the UK. League tables are always attractive to journalists as the can easily be spun if you only have half the facts, or not even half in Hayes’ case.
This performance was indeed not as we would like. But, we might consider a few of those facts (most of which are publicly available):
Bell is comparing us with St Albans who are twice as good as the 2nd best authority in the country. They are what a statistician would call an outlier.
In a previous written answer Kitty Usher, the relevant minister, stated that the average council’s processing time was 27 days in 2007/8. So although Ealing performed badly it was only 18 days short of the average across the country last year.
This was last year’s data. Bell doesn’t know, because he didn’t ask, that the council is achieving something like 34 days this year.
In 2006/7 the council only achieved something like 70 days. That was our inheritance from the previous Labour administration.
Since then the new administration has invested in this service, recruiting new people to tackle Labour’s backlog.
Not only were the old Labour administration bad at doing the things that all people value like cleaning the streets but they couldn’t even look after the weakest is society effectively. Bell really should try harder.