David Palethorpe

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Northampton Footfall – Figures Don’t Add up

Have number of visitors to Northampton really increased?

Have number of visitors to Northampton really increased?

Northampton Footfall – Figures Don’t Add up

When I wrote a recent blog questioning the reliability of the Northampton Conservatives claims that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to the town I indicated that I had asked for information under the Freedom of Information Act to validate the claims.

Having received the information, and I should say that the Northampton Borough Council FOI staff are in no way responsible for the information they give in responding to requests relying on the information they are given by the responsible department within the authority, my scepticism rather than being decreased has in fact increased.

Footfall is an important measure of the health of the Town Centre but as I argued in my blog, “Footfall – A Triumph of Political Deceit”? (13 February 2015) for it to be valid comparisons have to be made using information from the same monitoring points.

There are now four monitoring points measuring the Town Centre Footfall located at,
Abington Street (Marks and Spencer Building)
Market Square (Waterloo House)
The Drapery (Santander Building)
Sheep Street (Charity Shop Edge of Market)

Abington Street and Market Square monitoring points are those that have been in place for a number of years and which past comparisons of data has been based on.

The Drapery and Sheep Street monitoring points were installed towards the end of 2014 with the reasoning that it would give an indication of the footfall from the Northgate Bus Station and residents using the Bus Services in the Drapery.

The information I asked for was simple, and given the fact that the Council collects the data you would think it would readily available for instant release which raises the question of “Why did it take 20 working days, four weeks for the relevant department to pass the information to the FOI staff”?

The two monitoring points used to compare like for like information was highlighted when the Conservatives tried to claim that footfall during the period January – March 2014 had increased to 4 million which it turned out was the total figure for ALL of the monitoring points and which turned out like for like to only be 2.77 million.

In effect the additional monitoring points inflated the footfall figures by over 40%.

It was a lame attempt to fool the public by introducing two additional monitoring points that was not only dishonest but so transparent it could only be because Cllr Mackintosh who is the Cabinet Member responsible for performance thought the public to stupid to notice.

Of course using the Abington Street and Market Square monitoring points isn’t perfect but at least when comparing with past data it is consistent.

I asked for the following information,

1. The total recorded Northampton Town Centre Footfall for the periods:

1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014 (Quarter 1 2014/2015)
1 July 2014 to 30 September 2014 (Quarter 2 2014/2015)
1 October 2014 to 31 December 2014 (Quarter 3 2014/2015)

The answer to which was
Quarter 1. 3,895,189
Quarter 2. 4,176,018
Quarter 3. 3,666,041

2. The total recorded Northampton Town Centre Footfall for the same periods as recorded on the Abington Street and Market Square data recording points.

and the answer to which was,

Quarter 1. Abington Street 2,550,771 Market Square 1,344,418
Quarter 2. Abington Street 2,726,476 Market Square 1,449,542
Quarter 3. Abington Street 2,055,213 Market Square 1,610,828

Now forgive my cyclical and suspicious nature but having seen at first hand on issues such as the sale of Sekhemka, Delapre Abbey, Legal and General, Railway Station and Greyfriars amongst many I certainly think it unwise to believe anything Cllr Mackintosh claims without checking, but the footfall data doesn’t appear valid, reliable or even believable.

Let me explain.

In answer to my first request the total from All four monitoring points is as listed in the top table and those for the two traditional comparison sites in the bottom table!!

So how is it that the data is exactly the same?

There may of course be good reasons, for instance it may be that Cllr Mackintosh having consistently claimed that the new Northgate Bus Station would attract tens of thousands of visitors to Northampton has discovered that it hasn’t and has had the monitoring points for the bus station footfall in The Drapery and Sheep Street switched off?

If not how did the claimed increase in visitors manage to get from the Northgate Bus Station and Drapery Bus stops through the Town Centre to be monitored in the Market Square and/or Abington Street without being detected?

It may be that the data from all four monitoring points is correct which raises the question of why is the information being presented as that from only two of them?

It may be that the data from Abington Street and Market Square is correct which raises the question of why is the information being presented as that from all four monitoring points?

It may be that those collecting the information have been so incompetent that all of the information is questionable?

It may be that in order to support his press release on how successful the Town Centre is Cllr Mackintosh has agreed to the data being adapted and creatively presented.

In other words the information may add up arithmetically but they certainly don’t in terms of validity and reliability.

What the presented data claims to show is that over the first nine months of the current financial year the footfall was 11,737,248 meaning we are led to believe is an increase of over 700,000 visitors compared with the same period the year before.

All of this of course during a period when Abington Street was closed or had reduced access for a considerable period of time to pedestrians.

It also acts as a perfect smokescreen to the fact that the number of visitors to Northampton is over 2.5 million fewer in the 4 years under the Leadership of Cllr Mackintosh.

It also doesn’t explain how they can be trusted in claiming that Performance has improved when in fact they have reduced the target by surprise, surprise, 2.5 million which I have no doubt we will be told it is just a coincidence that it is almost exactly the same as the number
of fewer visitors.

The question is can we trust the footfall figures?

I have serious doubts that we can given the questions raised from the response to my queries.

I have sent this request for the following information

The total recorded Northampton Town Centre Footfall as recorded on the The Drapery and Sheep Street monitoring points for the periods:

1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014 (Quarter 1 2014/2015)
1 July 2014 to 30 September 2014 (Quarter 2 2014/2015)
1 October 2014 to 31 December 2014 (Quarter 3 2014/2015)

Year 2014 – 2015
Quarter 1. The Drapery Footfall. Sheep Street Footfall
Quarter 2. The Drapery Footfall. Sheep Street Footfall
Quarter 3. The Drapery Footfall. Sheep Street Footfall

It will be very interesting to see if it takes another four weeks to get the information which means that it would arrive on the 1st April.

Or will it be held up until after the election?

I will keep you informed.

Information

This entry was posted on March 5, 2015 by in Tories Northampton.

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