10 months, 1 week ago

We’re off to talkRADIO.

Tune into Eamonn Holmes’ show at 5.30pm to hear our editor, Tom Phillips, run through some of the biggest claims of the last week.

We’ll be covering maggots in orange juice, immigration numbers, misleading leaflets and Scottish GDP

Listen online.

10 months, 1 week ago

Digitally altered Diane Abbott video

Before this election started, concerns were raised about the possibility of “deepfake” videos being deployed during the campaign. 

To date, we haven’t seen any deepfakes, other than deepfakes intended to warn people about the existence of deepfakes.

However, we have seen videos that use much cruder techniques.

Today we’ve seen a video spreading online of Diane Abbott, digitally altered to show her in clown makeup, and talking about why you should vote Labour. 

It’s not difficult to see that the makeup has been digitally added to the video (you can see the original unedited video here.)

It’s notable because spoof subtitles have been added to the video, which becomes interesting when you take into account that many people watch videos on social media without sound. While this obviously isn’t intended to fool anyone, it might be worth bearing in mind that subtitles don’t necessarily reflect what’s actually being said in the video.

10 months, 1 week ago

A&E waits: record levels—but data only goes back to 2010

Last week many media outlets reported that A&E waiting times had hit their “worst ever level”. This is technically correct, but it’s worth noting that comparable data only goes back to 2010. 

In October 2019, 83.6% of patients attending all types of A&E departments (including things like dental A&E and urgent care centres) in England were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. We don’t have data on the situation before the four hour target was introduced in 2004, although it seems likely that the situation was worse in the preceding decade, when public concern about “corridors of shame” prompted the introduction of the target in the first place.

You can read our full fact check here.

10 months, 1 week ago

Changing tax

This morning Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and among other things discussed her party’s plans for “a proper reform of business rates”. She didn’t specify exactly what this entails, but did say “business rates is the one tax that business organisations tell us isn’t working for them”.

Presenter Nick Robinson asked her several times how the Conservatives were going to fund a reduction in business rates.

After asking for the third time “where does the money come from?”, Ms Leadsom responded:

“You’re assuming money comes from somewhere. What I’m trying to explain to you is since our reduction in the headline rate of corporation tax, the HMRC’s tax take has actually increased by something like 45% because more businesses comply”.

Ms Leadsom did not go as far as to say a reform of business rates would be funded through a reduction in corporation tax, but she did suggest that lowering corporation tax was a way of potentially generating more revenue for the government.

A couple of hours later, Boris Johnson announced that the Conservatives would postpone their proposed further cuts in corporation tax, saying that this would free up £6 billion for the NHS.

Those slightly contradictory messages aside, it’s far from clear how far corporation tax reductions have increased tax revenue overall. 

The government began reducing corporation tax at the start of 2011/12. Corporation tax revenues fell over the next couple of years, but then have increased in every year since 2014/15. They haven’t gone up by 45% in that period, though. They have increased by around 45% since 2009/10, but that was two years before the Conservatives started to reduce corporation tax, when tax revenues were at a low in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis.

And revenues as a percentage of GDP have remained fairly flat over the past decade (and are relatively low by historic standards), as you can see on this helpful chart from HMRC’s tax receipts document

There’s no way to definitively know how corporation tax reductions might have impacted other tax revenues (such as income tax), or to what extent they may have contributed more broadly to economic growth.

As we said last time we wrote about this, "the exact impacts on economic growth are hard to predict", although HMRC's estimates suggested that the previous corporation tax cuts could result in between 0.6% and 0.8% growth in GDP over 20 years.

10 months, 1 week ago

A routine check-up of Labour’s dental claims

Labour has announced it wants to scrap certain dentistry charges if it wins the election, which would make it free to get a check-up and get other basic services. These “band one” charges currently cost £22.70.

Jeremy Corbyn trailed the policy yesterday saying one in five patients delay going to the dentist because of cost, leaving 100,000 people in hospital with preventable problems with their teeth.

The one in five figure is significantly out of date, and it’s misleading to directly link dental costs to 100,000 hospital admissions, as he does.

The one in five claim is what the Adult Dental Health Survey found in late 2009/10. 19% of respondents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland said they had delayed dental treatment at some point in the past because of the cost.

Why such out of date figures? That survey only happens every 10 years, so it means we can’t be certain Labour’s “one in five” figure is still accurate in 2019.

Just over 100,000 hospital admissions in England in 2018/19 were related to tooth decay, and another 17,000 to gum disease. These aren’t necessarily all different people, as one person can have multiple admissions for similar ailments.

It’s misleading for Jeremy Corbyn to connect all these cases directly to people not being able to afford dental care, as he does in his tweet. This isn’t substantiated by the data, which can’t tell us the circumstances behind those admissions to hospital.