Back in October and November 2014, Wrexham Council 'consulted' on their budget proposals and as a consequence decided to drop a couple of their more controversial savings proposals (having obviously learnt some lessons from last year's Plas Madoc Leisure Centre fiasco).
This is what they've said in their budget report for Wednesday's Full Council meeting about the consultation:
Given the 942 responses to the survey, statistically this provides a 96 to 97% confidence level in these results. Generally, 95% is taken to be acceptable in most social research. Sometimes such research even uses a confidence level as low as 90%. This confidence level is how sure we can be that our results would be true if we asked another 942 people the same question. The margin of error/confidence interval with this number of people is 3% or 4% of the answers received. A 3.5% margin is statistically very good as most research would use a 5% confidence interval. 5.3 In summary, we do need to be clear that the number of responses received in this consultation surpassed what is normally used as good practice ie 95% confidence level and 5% confidence interval and therefore we can be confident in the results of the exercise.
The consultation findings are detailed ... In summary the proposals receiving the highest levels of agreement overall were Council Tax Electronic Billing (91%agreed, 5% disagreed), Mayoral Service (87% agreed, 7% disagreed), Online processing (85% agreed, 9% disagreed), Tourist Information Centre (83% agreed, 11% disagreed), Learning Disability Service (82% agreed, 11% disagreed) and Shopmobility to Third Sector (81% agreed, 13% disagreed). The proposals receiving the lowest levels of agreement overall were Highways Planned Maintenance (24% agreed, 70% disagreed), Council Tax Rise (37% agreed, 58% disagreed), Car Parking Charges at Country Parks (43% agreed, 52% disagreed), Family Friends Contract (44% agreed, 43% disagreed), Supporting People (53% agreed, 34% disagreed) and Redesign Tapley Avenue (58% agreed, 30% disagreed)This is a pretty good attempt at baffling the reader with science but confidence levels can only apply if the survey sample has been 'weighted' for various characteristics and demography which this survey hasn't so the results are pretty meaningless and poor justification for making such important life impacting decisions on.
Let me elaborate on what I mean, 91% of respondents were in agreement with moving to electronic billing of council tax...unsurprising when 922 of the 942 respondents to the survey completed it electronically and it makes one wonder whether the 20 who completed the paper survey were the 5% who disagreed with electronic billing?
Another example was where a high number of respondents opposed car park charges at Country Parks and changes to planned Highways maintenance. I don't think we need to be statisticians to guess that ALL who disagreed here are probably car owners, what is significant here is the 43% who agreed with car parking charges of whom many would also be car owners.
Let's now look at cuts which are demographically located like Caia Park Early Years where 70% of respondents agreed with cut and 20% disagreed. Why would respondents who live in Glyn Ceiriog or Chirk oppose a cut in an area miles away from them. If the cut doesn't affect you why should you disagree with it?
The same argument applies to another demography, that of people who desire a Welsh Medium Education. A cut of £23,000 to Mudiad Meithrin who support Welsh Nursery provision was supported by 70% and opposed by 20%. Again,why would respondents disagree with a cut to funding that doesn't affect them?
If you do a survey it must be done right!