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Letter: The ‘Alternative’ Survey was Meaningless

Published on: 18 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 18 Feb, 2024

From: Howard Smith

Labour borough councillor for Westborough

Unfortunately, there is nothing to suggest this survey is anything other than a stunt by the tiny but vocal car lobby to prevent a scheme aimed at improving road safety and public health.

It is not neutral, has no independent verification and so is ultimately meaningless. There seems to be no reason why half a dozen people couldn’t have completed all the answers anonymously which I strongly expect was the case.

Ignore, move on.

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Responses to Letter: The ‘Alternative’ Survey was Meaningless

  1. Niels Laub Reply

    February 18, 2024 at 1:22 pm

    Because of the many concerns about the Surrey County Council Questionnaire, particularly the leading nature of some of the questions, a local group known as the London Road Active Travel Survey Group set up an alternative survey that went online on the 7th November 2023.

    Crucially this survey included the key question asking whether you were in favour of the scheme or not. This survey lasted for six weeks and closed on the 15th December to coincide with the end of the consultation period.

    The survey received a total of 1,241 responses over a short six-week period and 87 per cent of those responses were opposed to the scheme. Because the survey required respondents to provide a post code, we were able to tell that 91 per cent of the respondents were from Guildford post codes that therefore most of the responses came from residents who will be directly affected by these proposals.

    These results were presented to Tim Oliver, the Leader of Surrey County Council, at a meeting on 18th December which was attended by Angela Richardson MP for Guildford.

    The results of this alternative survey were also submitted to the council within the deadline set for submissions for the public consultation. We believe that the Surrey County Council should take the results of this alternative survey into consideration.

    At the time the Surrey County Council’s online questionnaire finally closed on 15th December, having been open for 13 weeks, their online survey had recorded a total of 762 responses.

    A decision on whether Surrey County Council will go ahead with the Active travel Scheme planned for the London Road will be taken by Surrey County Council at the Cabinet Meeting on 27th February. No doubt they will justify their decision on the results of their own survey, the results of which they have yet to declare.

    Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said at a meeting on 15th February that the council officers were not prepared to consider the results from the alternative survey on the grounds that the results were not verifiable.

    The same accusation can be made of the Surrey County Council Online questionnaire. Moreover, all the questionnaires completed before publication of the Traffic Modelling Report on the 14th October should, strictly speaking, be disregarded.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    February 18, 2024 at 7:36 pm

    Mr Smith writes: ‘there is nothing to suggest this survey is anything other than a stunt’.

    The Dragon interview provides extensive information about the survey including:
    * the link to the website describing the methodology and results
    * a transcript of the questions asked
    * the number of respondents: “1,241 people responded, 96 per cent of whom were from GU postcodes, and 77 per cent from GU1/GU4 postcodes”.

    It is hard to see therefore why this has attracted Mr Smith’s disdain and his unevidenced innuendos and slurs.

    Mr Smith derides a reasoned and evidenced effort by concerned citizens – all provided out of their own time, money and effort at no cost to the government or the public. Far from being a stunt the poll has all the elements of a public spirited gesture.

    He asserts that the survey has “no independent verification”. It is not apparent that anyone else’s, not least SCC’s survey has any independent verification. But at least this survey is published in full and if anyone wanted to audit it then in principle they can.

    His statement:”There seems to be no reason why half a dozen people couldn’t have completed all the answers anonymously which I strongly expect was the case”, is a statement of suspicion without proof. In other words Mr Smith states that he suspects that the survey is a fraud carried out by “half a dozen people” who may have “completed all the answers anonymously”. That innuendo verges on libel. What evidence has Mr Smith got for his “strong” suspicion? He should ask to see the survey responses before he makes serious allegations like these.

    What evidence does Mr Smith advance for stating that this group is a “tiny minority”. There seems to be no reason to suppose it is any tinier that the group that Mr Smith promotes.

    • J Holt Reply

      February 19, 2024 at 7:01 am

      Thank you Ben Paton for putting the other side of this contentious debate.

      If SCC had performed a consultation properly and behaved responsibly throughout this matter might have been resolved, one way or another, without all the innuendos and slurs.

    • Bethan Moore Reply

      February 22, 2024 at 7:26 am

      No, the survey writers need to prove their results. Critics can only point out flaws in the data collection methodology as they do not have access to the data.

      What guarantees do the survey authors have that the information gathered is true?

      It’s easy enough to make up email addresses and post codes. ChatGPT could surely do this in five minutes.

      And I looked for information on methodology and found nothing.

      • Ben Paton Reply

        February 22, 2024 at 2:29 pm

        Ms Moore gives the impression that she wishes to hold the ‘alternative survey’ to a higher standard than she holds SCC – or anyone else.

        Why should a different standard be applied to them? Is there any a priori reason why the alternative survey is any less reliable than the SCC survey?

        If not, then Ms Moore appears to be shooting the messenger because she does not like the message.

        Most users of A roads (the majority of whom, by definition, travel by motor vehicle ie car, motorcycle, bus or truck) will be harmed by greater congestion and slower journey times caused by narrowing the carriageway for motor traffic. So it is not surprising that if they study the plans they are likely to be against them. Far from suggesting that the opinions expressed indicate that the respondents are fakes and organised fraudsters, it suggests the respondents were capable of rational analysis of the objective facts.

        SCC is not independent and certainly no more independent that the alternative surveyors. It has a ‘dog in the race’. Perhaps Ms Moore could tell us if she belongs to any organisations with conflicting interests?

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