Don’t count your (productivity) Unicorns before they hatch!

From David Daniel:

“The “Joint Committee” (representatives from 23 organisations across Devon and Somerset – political balance rules do not apply) has just endorsed the final version of the HotSW Productivity Strategy.

But would you buy the proverbial second-hand car from an organisation that takes such a cavalier attitude to presenting facts and figures? Would you trust it to invest hundreds of millions of pounds of your taxes wisely? And, if you did, would you have any faith in its ability subsequently to deliver the goods?

Let’s start with the press release statement: “The Productivity Strategy aims to double productivity in the area over 20 years”. It does no such thing. The maximum claimed productivity gain in the strategy is to jump from a currently “assumed” 1.7% local annual productivity growth (probably nearer 1.5%) to 2.2%. No doubling here even if you accumulate the change over 20 years. For interest, historic average UK productivity growth rate is 2.0% and in the league table of LEPs, HotSW ranks 32nd out of 37 (London and South East dominate).

The 20 year timescale is a bit fuzzy as well. The introduction to the adopted strategy says: “Our ambition is simple – to double the size of the economy over 20 years.” In the consultation draft, however, it said: “Our ambition is simple – to double the economy in 18 years.” So which is it? On page 36 the Productivity Strategy is clearly marked (as it was in the consultation draft) 2018 to 2036, and none of the other numbers has changed. In my book that is 18 years, not 20!

Anyhow, what is being doubled is not productivity but the size of the economy (a combination of growth in both productivity and employment). Except the economy won’t be doubled using any of the combinations of growth in productivity and employment mentioned in the strategy, in either 18 or 20 years. The best on offer is a 3% compound growth. If that started instantaneously this year, and it obviously won’t, it would yield 70% growth in 18 years or 80% in 20 years. To double the economy, a compound growth rate of 3.94% (4%) would be required. Long term average UK growth rate is 2.6%.

It is proposed to achieve this 3% economic growth by “holding” employment growth to 0.8% per annum (add 2.2% productivity growth to 0.8% employment growth = 3%). We are effectively at full employment now. The Office for National Statistic population projections do show the South West population as a whole growing over this period at around 0.8% (0.76%) per annum. However, we have an ageing population and the annual increase of those classified as of working age is only 0.16% (16 to 64 for all genders). This will leave a shortfall of around 83,000 workers by the end of 18 years. Pension age is increasing to 66 by 2020 and to 67 between 2028 and 2028. Even if all 65 to 69 year olds are added to the work force they would not make up the shortfall. They would probably not be at the cutting edge of productivity either. So the plan can only work with major inward migration. This could be difficult in the post Brexit world.

Having ambition is one thing; plucking numbers out of the air and throwing them around without regard to the real world is quite another. There is no discussion of how long the transition from the slow to fast lane might take, delivery considerations come later. The hype assumes instantaneous change. How can anyone take this seriously?

Perhaps the members of HotSW and the Joint Committee believe they will all be long gone in 18 or 20 years and can’t be held to account. But what they have signed up to is so dramatic that failure will very soon become apparent. Brexit, surprisingly, might herald a refocussing of minds as suggested by Philip Aldrick, economics editor The Times, 20 March:
“….One theory doing the rounds is that the Treasury wants to know if its business support schemes are working. A crunch is coming. England’s 39 local enterprise partnerships, designed to boost growth, are funded largely with EU grants. For 2014 to 2020, they secured €6.51 billion of European Structural and Investment funds. Of that, €2.5 billion was allocated to “enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises”, about a tenth of which went to less developed regions.”

“After Brexit, now formally delayed until 2021 after yesterday’s transition deal, the money will no longer make the round trip via Brussels. It will come directly from Westminster, bringing with it more political accountability. If the money is not driving productivity, which it patently isn’t, the Treasury may decide the financial medicine could be administered more effectively.”

Swire relives the old days … again … and again … but not those in East Devon

Not content with trying to relive the old days at the Foreign Office, Swire is going even further back in his old career. Still, reliving the past is quite common at his age.

“DUP leader Arlene Foster has told a Conservative Association meeting in England that she ‘cares for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland’ and wants to see a Brexit solution that works for everyone.

Mrs Foster was the guest speaker on Thursday at the Devon Conservative Association.

DUP’s Foster says a border in Irish Sea after Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ for Northern Ireland’s economy.

She was invited to address the gathering by East Devon MP Hugo Swire who also previously served as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. …”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/foster-tells-conservative-association-meeting-i-care-for-neighbours-in-the-republic-36757347.html

Wonder if anyone in the audience asked her about that billion dollars she and her nine other DUP MPs took from us to prop up their party.

Education spending on the few not the many

Pupils forced to learn in cramped and crumbling schools, says survey

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/pupils-forced-to-learn-in-cramped-and-crumbling-schools-says-survey

MPs criticise failure to tackle excessive salaries in Academies

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/mps-criticise-government-oversight-of-academy-school-finances

“Cambridge Analytica files spell out election tactics” – one of which was “persuade people NOT to vote”

The files were released by the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

They detail some of the work undertaken by Cambridge Analytica and companies it has been linked with, including SCL Group, Global Science Research and Aggregate IQ.

“In one document, SCL said that encouraging people “not to vote” might be more effective than trying to motivate swing voters.

Describing its work in a Nigerian election, SCL Global said it had advised that “rather than trying to motivate swing voters to vote for our clients, a more effective strategy might be to persuade opposition voters not to vote at all”.

It said this had been achieved by “organising anti-election rallies on the day of polling in opposition strongholds” and using “local religious figures to maximise their appeal especially among the spiritual, rural communities”.

It boasted of devising a political graffiti campaign to create a youth “movement” in Trinidad and Tobago and of disseminating “campaign messages that, whilst ostensibly coming from the youth, were unattributable to any specific party”. It said as a result “a united youth movement was created”.
In Latvia, it said it had recognised that “unspoken ethnic tensions” were “at the heart of the election”.

“The locals secretly blamed the Russians for stealing their jobs… armed with this knowledge, SCL was able to reflect these real issues in its client’s messaging,” the document said.

The files spell out how SCL helped the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office “in strategic planning to counter violent jihadism” in Pakistan.

“I wouldn’t only recommend them, I’d work with them again in an instant,” wrote an official, whose name has been redacted.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43581892

“Social” “Care”

Just watch this – being seen at an Age UK reception for MPs tonight and see just why our independent councillors are so important to us – all that stands between us and EDDC and DCC Tory councillors who deliberately bury their heads in the sand:

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/our-impact/campaigning/care-in-crisis/