Fringe Box



Letter: Why Tamper with Survey Data Whilst it is Still Active?

Published on: 30 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2023

From: Terry Newman

chair of the London Road Action Group (LRAG)

See more London Road articles here.

From the outset, LRAG has monitored the submissions made by the public to Surrey County Council’s survey (Have Your Say Today – Burpham To Guildford Active Travel Scheme – Commonplace).

The group wanted to ensure that the results achieved a genuine outcome of what the affected community wanted. This was the commitment made by the leader of the council, about not proceeding if there was a massive opposition.

LRAG had a firm belief, along with several other stakeholders, that the style and content of the SCC survey questions were biased, and couched in terms that were designed to produce mainly answers supporting the Scheme. This has indeed been evident, in answers to the questions which can be measured, though heavily contradicted by the commentaries (LRAG has expertise in analysing such surveys).

Early during the engagement period, a puzzle arose, about the apparent disappearance of some submissions.   LRAG’s latest newsletter ‘News Updates”,  released at 11.42pm on November 28, reported the latest number of respondents to the SCC survey had been checked as being only 535, disappointingly, over more than 10 weeks, less than 10 per cent of those canvassed by SCC in 6,000, triplicated, letters.

By late afternoon on November 29 the number of comments had gone up to 627 – 92 more – but hang on, only four of those 92 were registered in the intervening 19 hours!

So where have the other 88 been hiding?  Somehow they must have been posted, then removed and now re-added – why? A similar effect was spotted in the Traffic Modelling comments; 23 on  November 28, but 28 one day later, though only one more was logged in the intervening interval.  Who has been tampering with data and why?

Obtaining balanced judgments and conclusions can be difficult.  Despite being able to hear or read all components of the debate, many may not change their views; indeed, studies have demonstrated that arguments mainly serve to reinforce already-held opinions, rather than causing a change of mind.  But it is important that no-one is prevented from access to all views, from all quarters, in order to reach a conclusion.

Whoever controls the information release is, therefore, in a powerful position.  To retain the trust and confidence of all parties during the contemplations, those in control need to act with total integrity.  Does this removal and subsequent replacement of data reflect that?

There was another reaction to the LRAG newsletter. The creators of the heavily disparaged “flyer” and “parallel survey”,  London Road Active Travel Survey – HOME , offered its rate of responders over the two to three weeks since their launch. It was of the order of 50 per cent more than the official survey!

The reason?  It couldn’t be that they offered members of the community an opportunity to declare a definite decision about the desire for the Active Travel Scheme, could it?

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Responses to Letter: Why Tamper with Survey Data Whilst it is Still Active?

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    November 30, 2023 at 5:15 pm

    Why am I not surprised about the apparent and significant anomalies in the SCC data and submissions. It, of course, discredits the county council and calls the accuracy of the published responses to its survey into question. Both, of course, could have been predicted.

    The council leader is reported to have remarked that were there to be significant opposition the Scheme would not be implemented. Will he now further consider the facts and representations and act as he suggested by abandoning it.

    I once observed that the matter would likely end in a Judicial Review. I hope that will not occur but I am more than confident that this will be a potential outcome.

    I end by asking, if the LRAG are confident that the support for this ill thought through scheme, with its potential to increase pollution, congestion and danger to all road users is not axed, will it agree to call a further public meeting to reinforce the outcome of the previous meeting?

  2. Derek Payne Reply

    December 4, 2023 at 10:07 pm

    I would just like to add to Terry Newman’s excellent letter that as a member of the STRG [Sustainable Transport Reference Group] who attended the meetings where the wording of the Surrey County Council survey questions was supposed to be reviewed and approved by the group, the final version of the survey was produced after the final meeting, and so was never reviewed by the STRG.

    One of a number of sticking points from earlier reviews was the fact that SCC would not include a question asking “do you believe the scheme should go ahead”. As mentioned by Terry, the wording of the last version we saw appeared to be biased in favour of the scheme, and therefore unacceptable to a number of stakeholders. The final published version remains biased, in my opinion.

  3. Alan Malby Reply

    December 13, 2023 at 11:22 pm

    Please cancel this scheme.

    Reasons, in no particular order:

    By any metric, a figure of £30,000, give or take, per additional person encouraged to use a bicycle cannot be a valid use of money.

    How will most of Guildford get to Sainsbury’s supermarket You can’t safely do the weekly shop on a bicycle. Traffic will be forced to take to most unsuitable roads, eg Tormead Road, A25 Epsom Road, Clay lane.

    Slower traffic will increase pollution.

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