Getting the source right

I’ve seen a few people talking this morning about how ‘Westminster Council’ are planning to strip benefits from obese people who don’t exercise. Now, that’s a very silly idea – and Stavvers points out the reasons for that in this post – but the key point that people have missed is that these proposals don’t actually come from Westminster Council.

The stories are based on this report on the LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) website. While Westminster Council were part of the process in coming up with the report – through some vaguely described ’round table discussions’ with the LGIU – the executive summary of the report (on page 2) states quite clearly:

Recommendations are, however, made independently by the LGiU and do not necessarily reflect the views of WCC.

Which actually makes this worse. This isn’t a rogue report floating around one council – this is an officially sanctioned and published LGIU report that will be circulated to hundreds of councils all across the country. Westminster’s name is attached to it as they appear to have been the only Council consulted in drawing up the report and recommendations, but this isn’t their policy unless they choose to adopt it, just like anyone else.

It’s worth noting that most of the report is pretty standard stuff that’s been seen in many other reports and recommendations 4 and 5 particularly could appear in just about any LGIU report with ‘public health’ replaced by whatever the topic at hand was. The problems mostly stem from one line on page 6:

Where an exercise package is prescribed to a resident, housing and council tax
benefit payments could be varied to reward or incentivise residents.

However because of the nature of the report, this isn’t backed up with any evidence as to who or where it’s come from, why anyone thinks it might be effective or whether the person who wrote it stared deep into their soul before doing so and realised exactly what it was they were proposing. Unfortunately, that advice is now being pushed out all across the country, so expect it to emerge in lots of places other than Westminster with proponents claiming ‘it was in an LGIU report, it must be a good idea!’