Stats bosses dismiss mayor’s funding complaint

NUMBER crunchers have refused to uphold a complaint against a Government minister made by Newham’s mayor.

Sir Robin Wales wrote to the UK Statistics Authority in December objecting to figures published in the Coalition’s local government finance settlement.

He accused Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles of “trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes”.

But in a letter to Sir Robin, authority chairman Michael Scholar said it was “not appropriate or practical” for his body to intervene.

“Our role is to make sure that public debate is well informed by good statistics, not ourselves to become a player or referee in the debate,” he added.

Sir Robin’s complaint centred on two sets of data released by Mr Pickles’ department.

The first listed cuts in local authority spending power and said no council would face a cut of more than 8.8 per cent. The second showed formula allocations to authorities and the amount each spent by head, with more cash going to deprived areas such as Newham.

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But Sir Robin said the figures masked greater cuts and pointed to research by the New Local Government Network, which showed deprived areas would take more of a hit.

Speaking after he lodged his complaint, he said: “Why use one set of statistics one week and completely different figures the next, if not to secure favourable headlines? Of course, the real story is that he’s trying shift attention from the swingeing cuts his department has imposed upon some of London’s most deprived areas, while boroughs like Richmond escape lightly.”

Speaking after the authority’s decision, local government minister Grant Shapps said the complaint had been a “woeful attempt to deflect attention away from Newham’s vanity spending”.