Monday 19 October 2015

The Llanelli 'footfall' figures - 'Lies, damned lies, and statistics'

This week's Herald has been busy getting to the bottom of the mysterious boom in trade claimed for Llanelli town centre.

The figure in question was the whopping 36% rise in 'footfall' claimed by the leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole and also Cllr Meryl Gravell. The figure cropped up in the 'free parking'' discussions at the last Exec Board meeting, giving the impression of a general healthy rise in trade, despite the council-led out-of -town shopping centres having bled the town centre dry for a number of years.

The Herald decided to get to the bottom of the figure and were told by the council that it was from a Welsh Government document. This turned out not to be the case. The Herald continued to try and find the source of this figure for a couple more weeks.

At Wednesday's council meeting council leader Emlyn Dole, when questioned on the figure by opposition leader Jeff Edmunds, claimed it was actually from an electronic measuring system at St Elli shopping centre, in the town centre.

The Herald then asked the council for a copy of the data but this was refused as it 'belonged' to St Elli centre. This was despite the Exec Board clearly having a copy of the data to use, or rather misuse, to stoke their own agenda.

Eventually, the manager of St Elli provided a little light on the subject. There had been a slight rise in footfall over the summer, largely due to the efforts of the traders (the Exec Board had also criticised the traders for not doing enough to promote trade) to stage events in the town centre, but the 36% figure related to just ONE WEEK, which happened to be the last week of the summer holidays.

So this was not, as it was portrayed by the council leader, an overall, remarkable surge in the fortunes of Llanelli town centre trade, but the misleading use of statistics to bolster a weak argument. Nothing new of course in the world of local government spin but it's a pity, nonetheless, that Plaid have embraced the dark art so quickly.

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