Government slammed for giving ‘false impression’ of flood investment

The government has been accused (£) by the head of the UK Statistics Authority of giving a misleading impression of how much it has invested in flood defence.

The head of the UK Statistics Authority has criticised the government for potentially giving a “false impression” of the amount of money being spent on flood defences.

In a letter to the Labour party, Sir Andrew Dilnot has written that a chart used by the government showing the level of investment in flood defences could give a “false impression of the relative size of investment between sectors”.

The accusation is based on a graph produced by the government in its ‘National Infrastructure Plan‘. As Jim Pickard of the FT puts it (£), this graph (page 9 of the plan) gives “the impression to the casual observer that the government has invested nearly as much on flood projects as on energy or transport schemes”.

Flood graphj

He says this because, on closer inspection of the graph in question, it is apparent that according to the chart 100,000 doesn’t look much bigger than 10,000. Nor, in fact, does it even look much bigger than 1,000.

Here, thanks to Jim Waterson of Buzzfeed, is how the chart should look:

Flood graph2j

Not quite so impressive.

It’s not wonder that Sir Andrew concluded: “My view is that the chart could leave readers with a false impression of the relative size of investment between sectors.”

Well yes. One might even fall under the impression that the government is attempting to mislead the public as to how much is being spent on flood defences.

And to top things off, Jim Pickard of the FT adds (£):

“As a postscript, it is also worth exploring the repeated claim by ministers – including David Cameron – that the coalition is spending more on flood defences than Labour.

“A close examination of Defra’s own stats suggest that this is simply not true: and that over the current four-year period the government is spending (slightly) less money than the previous four years. Guy Shrubsole at Friends of the Earth has done the maths.”

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