It’s the statistics we’ve got to work with

Deprivation in the Blackdown Hills.

With reference to your follow up story on deprivation in the Blackdown Hills, whilst I agree with Disraeli’s famous scepticism that there are “lies, damn lies and statistics”, in the absence of better data, it is statistics that we have to work with, but labelling them as complex will only provide an excuse for the statistics to be overlooked, when it is important that we understand the causes behind the numbers. Then, those who have influence and responsibility to do so, can take corrective action to address the numbers which are outside a target or preferred distribution and the causes behind them.

This is clearly the case with the Governments deprivation statistics on housing and access to services as measured for the Otterhead Ward for 2010, since in most other respects, the same area, as Linda Bennett indicates, ranks in mid or lower quartiles with one other exception, surprisingly, being the quality of the indoor living environment, air quality and road traffic accidents where the area is also relatively high up in the rankings.

The government statistics for the Otterhead Ward for all categories are: Overall deprivation - 15,410; Income deprivation - 25,413; Income deprivation affecting children (sub category) - 26,437; Income deprivation affecting older people (sub category) - 28,848; Employment deprivation - 24,448; Health deprivation and disability - 27,008; Education, skills and training deprivation -16,721; Barriers to housing and services - 8; Crime - 26,725; Living Environment (based on quality of the indoor living environment, air quality and road traffic accidents) - 6,811.

Data taken from

The point Paul Diviani makes, that the Blackdown Hills Community Plan, which reviews these statistics for all 40 parishes in the Blackdown Hills, aims to help these parishes to come together to address common issues such as those highlighted by the statistics, broadband provision, transport provision and dealing with severe snow falls, is spot on.

The AONB Partnership is ideally positioned to take a leadership role in addressing these issues, but in the current structure most of them are not within the Partnership’s direct control and must be passed up to the multiplicity of District and County Councils who oversee the Blackdowns and “pull the levers”. The complexity that this introduces is I fear potentially more significant than the complexity of understanding what the statistics are telling us.

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None the less, it is the leadership of the AONB Partnership that Blackdown parishes need, now that the Localism Bill looks set to give greater responsibility for planning to Parish Councils. Having started with the Community Plan, it would therefore be good to see the AONB Partnership take a more proactive role in helping parishes establish common elements of Blackdown Hills Neighbourhood Plans (as envisaged by the Localism Bill) or better still creating Neighbourhood Plans spanning many or all of the parishes in the Blackdowns. Rather than complexity, Ockham’s Razor might then be the watchword for how such plans are created. (All things being equal, the simplest solution is the best!)

Graham Long

Via email