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 don’t mean much in press terms without comparisons.
Reading how where you live is seemingly the best or worst at something is always going to appear informative - even if nowadays it’s inevitably linked to some sort of marketing.
According to loan company Provident, Swansea comes eighth out of thirty towns and cities assessed for friendliness.
The scientific criteria used to determine this result is how likely residents claim they are to greet visitors by saying “hello” or nodding to them in the street. Hmmm, OK.
Swansea University is 8th in the UK for student satisfaction, as quoted by the National Student Survey. Some 91 per cent of Swansea students say that they are satisfied with their course overall.
We’re also one of the best places to live generally, says Web-Blinds.com – no, I’ve never heard of them either – but why quibble when we’re on such a roll?
Of course we do have a bit of a downside. As a city we have an abnormally high dread of dementia compared to some locations in Wales, or so says government clinical research.
We’re also a panicky bunch. A survey revealed almost one in ten Swansea residents has at least one panic attack a week, triggered by public transport and densely populated offices, apparently.
Another worrying note comes from Money Super Market who state Swansea’s northern M4 corridor appears in the top 20 burglary hotspots. I should add that police figures say something a lot less dramatic.
It’s up to us if we choose to take all these so-called surveys at anything other than dubious face value. As I've said, most are eye-catching promotion gimmicks.
Anyway, marketing gurus say we’re more susceptible to the direct approach via contemporary endorsement.
That’s why a video put together by locally based English junior doctors promoting what the city and region has to offer is having such an impact with colleagues across the border.
Promoted by the local health board, some 146,000 people have already watched medics here in Wales talking enthusiastically about the tremendous professional opportunities we have available, plus a very good quality of life.
After all, figures released over the weekend by Lloyds Bank, and which compare average gross local earnings with average city house prices put Swansea as joint 14th for affordability.
See? Once an anorak ….
Future proofing our success
The future can be a tricky place. Navigating life’s great expectations may involve gazing at new horizons but it pays to keep an eye out for banana skins.
It was with this approach in mind that what became known as Swansea Bay Futures was formed. I originally came up with the concept of a stand-alone marketing body but it was my successor Chris Holley who put the necessary meat and muscle on the bones.
Ten years on, SBF has become one of those niche partnership organisations that not only punches well above its weight in terms of networking but is also influential in bringing key players together.
It was only fitting that the anniversary should be celebrated in the newly opened Great Hall at Swansea University’s thriving Bay Campus.
Best wishes to all concerned. I’m sure that partnerships formed in the last ten years will be pivotal in taking the region forward through the next decade.
Well there’s good news and there’s bad news.
The good news is that you won’t have to wade through one of my columns again next week. The bad news is that there will be six of them.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, the editor has asked me to apply my “unique perspective” (his words) during the run-up to May’s Welsh Assembly elections.
What this means is that from Monday to Saturday next week, I’ll be looking at the fortunes of each major political party in turn – going back to when the Assembly opened for business in 1999.
I’ll be reading the manifestos, so you don’t have to, profiling the party leaders and chewing over a few scenarios that could emerge sometime after the polling stations close.
Oh yes, the other thing I’ve been asked to clarify is that the content will be my own totally objective and unbiased opinion.
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