Nik Butler: Listen to the voters, not to the statistics and reports

editorial image
Have your say

I rarely write in response to previously published articles as it can at times feel like some contrived media conversation.

However the recent comments by Councilor Ray Dawe regarding a justification for Housing numbers should not be allowed to slip by. Just as I berate protesters for the poor use of information so I must upbraid the elected for abuse of statistics.

Councillor Dawe’s view that almost 50% of Horsham’s working residents commute away from the town should be carefully looked at.

Ignoring the rather atrocious use of percentages to validate a position; I was interested what the number represents in terms of population. Working from the 2011 census from the Office of National Statistics I believe we have a population density of 131,301. Looking to the census it appears 67.7% of that population are economically active. 88,890 earn an income. At this point you should be asking the question how much are they earning and is it enough to buy a house? That is a statistics exercise for another article. Let us be generous then and say 45% of those working are the commuters which Councillor Dawe infers with his almost 50% comment.

So now we can see that from the 88,890 employed residents it is close to 40 thousand who leave Horsham to work. The remaining 48,000 remain in Horsham and work here.

Removing those commuters from the daily population leaves Horsham with 91 thousand residents of whom more than 50% are employed and presumably working inside Horsham. Can you see how easily we can adjust the frame of reference for this conversation? Within that number are 43,000 residents that are made up from the retired, the young and the unemployed.

The problem in using statistics to validate an argument is that when you have enough information you can use it to define almost any position you wish to take.

This may be why Wikipedia is so popular in the world of armchair pundits. Further to all these rather bland facts is the lack of information regarding how many people are commuting into Horsham and in doing so occupy a space and an economic value. I cannot find an account for them in the Office of National Statistics.

The lesson learnt from all of these mathematical manipulations and statistical shenanigans is that the role of a Councillor should be to listen to their electorate more than reports and numbers.