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We’re the subject of all we survey

The anorak in me is quite proud to have once served a term as chairman of the Wales Data Unit. Yep, it’s exactly as it sounds. A national bean-counting outfit set up by Welsh government, local councils and public service bodies to collate tons of social and economic information. Then as now, its purpose is to provide analyses that help inform complex policy decisions, which in turn allows resources to be targeted in the places most in need. The tough part however wasn’t producing data for civil servants. It was the media insistence that our reports should be packed with league tables – and if we didn’t oblige they often produced their own. The need is an understandable one. Official figures

Sticks and stones and politics

Politics is an adversarial business. Insults and intrigue are part of the deal - and just as likely to arise from your own side as from the opposition. It’s for that reason that you don’t find too many overly sensitive souls in debating chambers. So my experience is that most politicians only take offence when it suits them. This makes me a little sceptical as to how a piece of legislation recently failed to get through the Welsh Assembly. The ‘official’ version is that Plaid Cymru withdrew support for the Public Health Bill following suggestions by a Labour minister that co-operation between the respective parties amounted to a ‘cheap date’. It was a very ill-advised remark, to say the leas

Budgets and best guesses

Tomorrow sees Chancellor George Osborne present his budget to Parliament. At one time, this was quite a big deal with massive secrecy surrounding details hidden away in the red dispatch box. These days, we get much of the dirt in advance, on the proven basis that the best kind of leak is the one you engineer yourself. Things have also changed to the extent that Chancellor’s budgets and autumn statements are seldom about shaping an economy. They’ve become more a reflection of the Treasury’s estimate of current trends and a best guess as to what will happen next. I have to say that what we’ve heard so far doesn’t sound great. We know that billions in further spending cuts are planned. That’s

Thinking outside the tick-box

Last week’s biggest non-surprise was the disclosure via the BBC’s St David's Day poll, that health is the number one issue among the Welsh public. Hardly earth-shattering news given that political parties seem to be talking about nothing else in the run-up to May’s Assembly elections. Interestingly, social research says that despite politician’s best efforts, most of us base our perceptions about NHS performance upon our own personal experiences. This in turn relies on our expectations and how reasonable or unreasonable they are. So what is an interminable wait at A&E for some is considered acceptable by others. A common theme is that everyone thinks there’s room for improvement, including t

Making the right connections

Although a lot has been written about the initiative, it’s easy to get confused about the size and scope of the Swansea Bay City Region. As far as the designated economic body goes, it actually stretches from Milford Haven to Margam Park. With a population of 688,000 souls, the region includes Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, covering altogether some 1,860 square miles. Just to put things into perspective however, Oxfordshire – considered one of England’s greenest southern counties - has a similar sized population contained within just over half the area. The consequence is that population sparsity is as relevant as geography for south west Wales when it comes to dev

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