The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Leisure and culture

A gagging order?

06.19.08 | Comment?

I finally got the tables for the Serco 2008-09 price increases today.  It’s taken a while to extract them.  They come with the cordial warning:

“This information is commercially sensitive and should not be reproduced in this format or the detailed content reported in full.”

Now these tables are in much the same format as I’ve had them previoulsy, for the previous three years’ increases, but it’s the first time I’ve had such a warning, and as far as I can see there’s nothing in them that isn’t now or won’t be public in time anyway.

 So am I right in guessing that the warning comes because my analysis of the information last time around showed that Serco’s figures were misleading, and they don’t want that happening again?

 I’ll be challenging this restriction, not least since the Audit Commission, in its 2005 report on the development of the Serco contract, commented favourably on the ‘open book’ practices being proposed for the contract.  This doesn’t seem exactly open book to me.

 For the record, the price increase figures look misleading again.  The average price increase is again calculated in a mathematically inappropriate way, as it doesn’t take into account actual usage so can therefore be skewed by 0% price increases in price categories where there just don’t happen to be any customers!  That’s happened before.  My ‘weighted’ percentage increase calculations show an overall price increase of 4.08%, against Serco’s 3.72% calculation (for this in more detail, check out my January report).

While this difference isn’t as big as in previous years, % differences have a compound effect year on year, and this means that over time larger than acknowledged price increases are being brought in without anyone noticing.  Well I noticed!

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