Friday, 12 February 2016

Maths news: a small number times a big number is an even bigger number*

From The Mirror:

Arsenal fans left fuming after Stan Kroenke buys this mega 535,000-acre Texas ranch for £500 million

£500 million is of course a huge amount of money, but at less than £1,000 an acre, it was a fraction of the price of farm land in the UK.

The land for a typical, average English house has a selling price of about £100,000, which is £1 million per acre. Paying that much is extravagant!

* Assuming the small number is greater than 1 etc.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Oddly Edited Reader's Letter Of The Day

From The Evening Standard:

Zac Goldsmith grabbed headlines with his claim that a fare freeze by Transport for London would mean a 59 per cent increase in council tax [February 9].

However, anyone who reads the article will see that the true increase would be 17 per cent. Even his claim that the fare freeze would add £175 to an average council tax bill is deeply flawed.

[Missing third para, explaining that the required annual council tax increase would be more like £33.]

This seems like a sensible option to me, especially if the increase were targeted at the super-expensive homes in Zones 1 and 2 who pay the least toward TfL while getting the best value from it.

Mark Wadsworth, Young People's Party.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Landlord confirms that "bashing landlords" leads to an increase in owner-occupation levels

The Chairman of the Residential Landlord's Association in today's City AM:

When the UK last had [rent controls], the private rented sector fell from 55 per cent of households in 1939 to just 8 per cent in the late 1980s.

OK, allow me to rephrase that: "When the UK last had [rent controls], owner-occupation increased from 35 per cent of households in 1939 to 72 per cent in the late 1980s."

There then follows the usual gurgling about lack of supply, the old argument "we can cool the fire down by throwing more twigs on it. Twigs are cooler than fire, aren't they?".

... private landlords created 60 per cent of new homes homes between 1986 and 2012 - a total of 3m. There is a market for corporate investment as well as private.

Allow me to rephrase that: "Developers and construction workers created 100 per cent of new homes since 1986, and landlords snapped up most of them."


From the Telegraph

The thousand year old tradition of printing Britain's laws on vellum has been scrapped to save just £80,000 a year despite concerns from MPs about ending the historic practice.

The House of Lords have confirmed that from April all legislation will printed on simple archive paper instead of the traditional calfskin vellum.

"just" £80K? There's never a justifiable "just". Either it's worth spending the money, or it isn't. If paper is cheaper and does the job, switch to it.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Either they are terrible at maths or they are terrible liars.

Exhibit One

From The Evening Standard:

Zac Goldsmith claims Sadiq Khan would fund fares freeze with 59% rise in council tax

The row between the mayoral candidates over transport fares intensified today as Zac Goldsmith claimed his Labour rival would be forced to increase council tax by £175 a year for families to pay for a freeze.

Woah! Average Council Tax in London is £1,050 a year, slightly lower than the rest of the country (despite rental values and local per capita spending being about twice as high). That looks more like 17% to me…

Tory analysis of the figures suggests Mr Khan would have to increase City Hall’s council tax by 59 per cent — £175 a year for a typical household.

Sneaky! Technically, a London Council Tax bill is split into £850 for the local borough and a precept of £300 for the LGA (not many people notice this). £175 divided by £300 is of course something like 59%.

It's not even clear where the £175 comes from. TfL fare income is £3.8 billion a year (page 118 of their annual report, the other half of their budget is subsidies from the taxpayer), so if the normal price increase is 3% a year, a freeze means that TfL is foregoing £114 million a year, divided by 3.5 million homes = an average increase in Council Tax of £33 for each year that the freeze is in place.

Which seems like a perfectly sensible way of doing it to me, especially if the Council Tax increases were focused on Zones 1 and 2, who benefit most from TfL but pay the least towards it in fares, and especially if this meant that general taxpayer subsidies to TfL were reduced.
Exhibit Two

From The Nuffield Foundation (who are otherwise decent chaps):

Public sector employers, such as the NHS and schools, will need to find more than £3 billion a year from 2016–17 to pay higher National Insurance contributions.

Aren't we always told that National Insurance is there to pay for the NHS?* Total NIC revenues are around £110 billion, the NHS costs a bit more than that, so it's not far off. A tax is not a real cost to the NHS, because the NHS is taxpayer funded (a point which Lola has made about a million times).

* Cognitive dissonance being what it is, pensioners also claim that they have paid for their current state pensions (just under £100 billion a year) with their past NI contributions. When challenged, they refuse to accept that National Insurance is not a magical tax which can be spent four times over (for both the NHS and other people's pensions in the past, as well as the current cost of the NHS with a surplus built up being used to pay current pensions). I have actually seen pensioner propaganda saying that pensions are too low because their past NI contributions were squandered on something else, meaning it is spent five times over or some such accounting bullshit.

This is not evidence that a Brexit would help UK exports...

We have gleefully shredded many of the non-arguments put forward by the Remainers. In the spirit of fairness, it must be said that some Leavers are making the same mistake (i.e. putting forward arguments that are so feeble that they make you suspect that the opposite view is correct).

One that popped up again in yesterday's City AM (I can't find it online) was that the non-EU countries Switzerland and Norway export more per capita than the UK does. (I can't remember whether this was to the rest of the EU or rest of the world, not that it really matters)

Well duh.

This has nothing to do with the fact that Norway and Switzerland are not in the EU, it is simply because they are small countries (measured by population or economy). Logic and observation tells us that the smaller the country, the higher the value of imports and exports per capita (try imagining that your town was a separate country).

The list at Wiki shows the following in USD:

Liechtenstein 122,193 (2011)
Switzerland 40,250 (2011)
Norway 32,760 (2011)
Belgium 30,209 (2011)
Ireland 25,652 (2011)
Iceland 21,500 (2009 estimate)
Austria 20,424 (2011)
Denmark 20,000 (2011)
Sweden 19,687 (2011)
Germany 18,865 (2011)
Slovenia 16,640 (2009 estimate)
Slovakia 14,570 (2009 estimate)
Czech Republic 12,590 (2009 estimate)
Finland 10,766 (2009 estimate)
Hungary 10,700 (2011)
Estonia 9,820 (2009 estimate)
France [2] 8,989 (2011)
Italy 8,750 (2011)
United Kingdom 7,582 (2011)

Lithuania 7,250 (2009 estimate)
Spain 6,596 (2011)

I can't be bothered plotting a graph of exports per capita against actual population again, but you get the gist. Germany sticks out like a sore thumb, but exporting is their national religion.

The other four large EU member states are, as one would expect, bunched together at the bottom of that list. Dunno why Lithuania is so low down and going by population alone, Iceland ought to be higher up, but it's bloody miles from anywhere, and nautical miles at that.

"Violent puppet show sparks apology, but jailing puppets was wrong, says Madrid mayor"

From CBC News:

Madrid city hall apologized Monday to parents for exposing their children to a violent puppet show, but says jailing the puppets for allegedly praising terrorism was disproportionate.

Puppets "The Witch" and "Don Cristobal" were impounded without possibility of bail on Friday for using a sign saying, "Long Live Alka ETA," in a word-play reference to Spain's armed Basque group ETA and al-Qaida.

The satirical theatre piece entitled "The Witch and Don Cristobal", also featured the hanging of a judge's effigy, the stabbing of a nun with a crucifix and police beatings, prompting parents attending with children to complain. The show was commissioned by the city as part of Carnival celebrations.

Kermit and Sooty are spearheading a campaign for the pair's release.

Monday, 8 February 2016

What a load of alarmist nonsense


If lots of illegal immigrants without adequate papers are allowed on cross channel ferries by lax French border officials and end up at Dover, from what I recall, international law is quite clear they can and will be sent back on the next boat.

Of course the French could mischievously issue said immigrants with French papers, but this would be easy to spot and deal with.

Fun Online Polls: Plastic bags & Storm names

The results to last week's poll were as follows:

How many plastic bags did you or members of your household pay 5p for last month?

None - 60%
1 to 5 - 29%
6 to 10 - 10%
11 to 20 - 2%
21 to 30 - 0%
More than 30 - 0%

So the claim that the number of supermarket plastic bags used has gone down by 80% might well be true. The unknown variable is, are people buying an equal and opposite amount of bin liners etc. to use instead of plastic bags? How do we find that out?

A good turnout, thank you to everybody (121 people) who took part.
This week's poll:

Which were your favourite storm names so far?

You can choose as few or as many as you like.

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.