Can we believe the figures?

The forecasts of job losses in public services as a result of the deficit reduction programme certainly are dramatic enough to grab the headlines, but how reliable are they?

If you want to believe the current projections without question, fair enough, but what verification is being applied before the figures are handed to the press?

When a survey suggests that the cuts of police budgets could mean the loss of 10,000 officers, what figures have been used to reach such a conclusion?

For instance, it is possibly to tally up the total budgets of all the police authorities, apply the fraction by which spending is to be trimmed then divide that by the average cost per head of all the employees.

Alternatively, the reduction could be compared with the average cost per head of police constables, or against the average cost of inspectors and so on.

The consumer of news (reader, listener or viewer) might assume that you still had to get rid of ten thousand officers after all the other possible economies has been put in place. Where is the reassurance that such is the nature of the prediction?

A healthy dose of scepticism is required when dealing with any figures, and the first requirement is to know the formula that has been applied nd what other conditions have been assumed.

What we can be certain of is that a lot of the predictions that are being made at the moment come from sources that could have their own agenda. All organisations faced with the challenges of reigning in their spending could derive benefit from headlines that induce a sharp intake of breath and declarations of ‘that is unacceptable’ from the populace.