South of the River – Adding it up

Compass-SouthComment logo 2I’m lucky, I was always good at maths at school so I’m comfortable with numbers. I know a lot of people aren’t which is a shame because numbers are very important in life. It’s not just that they are the language of science and describe the universe we live in, or even making sure you don’t get shortchanged at the shops, they tell us about the issues that affect us day to day.

I haven’t had my tax statement from that nice Mr Osborne yet, but I gather that it will give me a breakdown of how my tax pound is spent. The biggest item is ‘Welfare’. What image does that draw for you? Third generation feckless, workshy scroungers? Or retired hard working pensioners? Because you should know that most of the welfare spending in this country goes to pensioners, disabled people and children.

Winston Churchill talked about “Lies, damned lies and statistics” and there is a danger of being bamboozled by clever manipulation of numbers. But there is another danger of not looking at the statistics and going on gut instinct. The problem is that most people’s gut is wrong.

Most people think they have more chance of winning the lottery than getting cancer, unfortunately it’s the other way round. In fact you have more chance being killed by a car walking to the newsagent to buy your lottery ticket, than of winning the jackpot. And buying two tickets doesn’t double your chances of winning.

Or take immigration. A recent report found that British people think on average that immigrants make up 24.4% of the population when it is actually about 13%, according to the 2011 census. If that’s what people think it’s no wonder UKIP are doing so well.

At a local level I was getting fed up of hearing that everyone ‘below’ Cross Flatts Park in Beeston was Asian and only white people live ‘above’ the park. So I went to look at the census data on the Neighbourhood Statistics website.

It turns out that there are about 1,400 people who describe their ethnicity as Asian ‘above’ the park, about 10%. Meanwhile 3,000 Asians live ‘below’ the park, still only about 35% or just of a third. Can I just throw that fact into the Aspiring Communities debate?

I want to pause at this point to dispel some myths about Super Output Areas. I recently heard the phrase “We need more help because we’ve got Super Output Areas in South Leeds”. In fact everywhere in the UK has Super Output Areas, they nothing more nor less than a geographical division of the country. The Census uses them as building blocks to build up their data sets.

I think the confusion arose when they started being used more widely alongside the Index of Multiple Deprivation a few years ago. What the speaker I quoted meant to say was “We have Super Output Areas that are amongst the 10% most deprived in the country.”

Getting back to numbers, Oxfam’s latest advert points out that just 85 people in the world own as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest souls on the planet.

What’s that got to do with immigration and tax statements? Well it seems to me that that there are two big issues feeding the UKIP-ers fears. One is the aforementioned over-estimation of the numbers of people coming into the country (and the fact that EU migrants contribute more than they consume). The second is that it’s getting harder to get good public services. Whether it’s getting a council house, or proper care for your elderly mother, or treatment on the NHS.

What’s missing from this analysis is that the two are not related. We have a government that wants a ‘small state’ rather than a welfare state. They are making unprecedented cuts to public services. It may have been a Labour council that closed Middleton Park golf course, but it was a Conservative & Liberal Democratic government that made them choose between golfers and care for the elderly. Meanwhile gap between rich and poor, in Britain and internationally is growing wider every day.

So my message to you is to check your facts. Make sure you know what you’re being told and use the tools that are available to find out for yourself.

I’ll be back in next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

10 Replies to “South of the River – Adding it up”

  1. Hi Jeremy , can I ask why you brought up the race issue with reference to your little personal plug for Aspiring Communities in your post ADDING IT UP . For the record most people in the Barkly Rd area of Beeston are against the Ice Pak development irrespective of their race or ethnicity . They are fighting it on the grounds of traffic , pollution etc that has serious issues in our area .

    Regards Sean

    1. Sean, I recognise that most people who oppose Aspiring Communities’ plans are concerned about traffic, pollution, etc. However there have been a number of comments on South Leeds Life to the effect that no one on the Cross Flatts side of the park would use a prayer room.

      1. Good afternoon Jeremy

        Your quote:

        “It turns out that there are about 1,400 people who describe their ethnicity as Asian ‘above’ the park, about 10%. Meanwhile 3,000 Asians live ‘below’ the park, still only about 35% or just of a third. Can I just throw that fact into the Aspiring Communities debate?”

        If you would like to throw those statistics into the debate then i would prefer it if you could get actual numbers of Sufi Muslims, for whom this centre is being built.

        I ask this as i believe that Asian does not mean the numbers of people who would want to use this prayer room. Do some Hindu’s, Buddists and Christians not describe their ethnicity as Asian?

        To say there are 1400 individuals in the area ‘above’ the park who want to use this facility is completely false. I know this as i have muslim neighbours who will not use it and want nothing to do with it as it is not the branch of Islam that they study and adhere to.

        Even if you do want to use these statistics, do you think it is correct that 10% of the local population should dictate to the other 90% what should be there?

        Regarding the other quoted statistics for ‘below’ the park. I believe they have built and are building facilities to cater for the needs ‘below’ the park.

          1. Hi Adam and Sean, the census data doesn’t break different strands of Islam (or any other religion), but the total number of Muslims ‘above the park’ or in ‘Beeston Village’ if you prefer is 1,277.

            This doesn’t mean, and I didn’t say, that they all support the Aspiring Communities project. The point I was making is that a significant number of Muslim people live in the area.

            Those of us that do support the project are not ‘dictating’ to the rest of the community, anymore than any other developer – housebuilder, supermarket, community group – dictate to the community. The project is going through the planning process like every other development.

            As to whether I am biased, I think this is a very interesting question. The short answer is that I try to seperate my personal views and keep them to my South of the River column. I aim to make sure that news reporting, such as my report of the Beeston Forum meeting reports the facts and doesn’t take sides. For the long answer you’ll have to wait until Friday and my next column when I will explore the issues.

  2. Jeremy
    Why does it matters how many Muslims live south of Cross Flatts Park and what has this to do with the “Aspiring Communities debate”
    On the planning application document for the old Ice Pak site lodged with Leeds City Council, the proposal is described as:
    “…proposed new build sports centre, teaching and community facility with associated offices and ancillary facilities.”

    There is no mention of Islam or Muslim in the proposal. Are you suggesting the proposal is misleading?

    1. Hi Rich, my point was that within the debate some people have claimed that Muslims live only on the other side of the park.

      I don’t think the proposal is misleading, but it’s no secret that Aspiring Communities is Muslim-led and that the plans include a prayer room. Indeed this seems to be what many opponents object too, judging from comments made at the public meeting.

  3. Hi Jeremy ,

    I find your promotion of the Ice Pak development as a bit OTT . Are you on Aspiring communities payroll .


    Someone who cares about our community in Barkly Rd and surrounds

  4. It looks like you are backing yourself into hole!!
    Should the question and debate be about how many people in the area want this kind of facility and would use the amenities not how many muslims live in Beeston Village?
    Besides all the comments I have seen have been to do with traffic, noise , pollution all the things that matter to a community….not Race or religion like you are trying to insinuate.
    I live opposite the proposed site if this was to be granted(which i really hope it won’t)would you be prepared to do a house swap??

Comments are closed.