Friday, September 30, 2011

Emptying your bins at 80 mph - the ongoing failure of evidence-based policy-making

Commissar Eric has been all across the media this morning, pushing the policy announcement about his plans to restore and protect our human right to have the remains of our curry collected from our bins once a week. I'm not sure that it quite qualifies as a human right alongside the right to life, but that's hardly relevant. Indeed, it isn't relevant that there is no evidence to support the Pieman's ludicrous claims that it will prevent rat infestations or increase recycling. The fact that all the studies demonstrate quite clearly that fortnightly collections actually push people to recycle more and that there is no demonstrable link between rats and fortnightly collections isn't important. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that Pickles has managed to find some £250 million - from departmental savings, or so he claims - to support waste collection authorities who want to restore this service. It isn't clear if this is a one-off payment, ongoing support or even what percentage of the cost that this will cover for cash-strapped local authorities.

Equally, Philip Hammond will be delighting the Clarksons of this world by promising an 80 mph speed limit on motorways (although that's out to consultation, so not actually a definite change yet). Apparently, this is going to have an economic benefit by allowing people to get to business meetings faster. The evidence for this is equally poor - in fact, we'd be better off encouraging teleconferencing and we know that the faster you go, the more fuel you consume. Indeed, we'd probably be better off with more variable speed limited stretches of motorway - getting there at a constant, if slower speed, is often faster than travelling at high speed for short bursts before running into a traffic jam. Even the AA - hardly a bunch of leftie treehuggers - reckon that travelling at 80, rather than 70, will use 25% more fuel than the lower speed, increasing CO2 emissions, cost and dependency on fuel imports. If you struggle to see the economic benefit, you'd be right, but you would also miss the point.

The point is that the Tory conference is next week and Pickles and Hammond are throwing some morsels of red meat to the membership. Yes, we know that higher speeds will mean more accidents and more environmental damage, we know that the £250 million found for bins is 70% of the Arts Council budget or a quarter of the scrapped Future Jobs Fund, but at least the Tory members can feel that they've got something.

Evidence is for wimps.

Poop Poop!

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