Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rating the rates benchmarks

I have managed to avoid most of the council election brouhaha until this week but that is always especially difficult for me when it come to council rates. The Cairns Unity team and Mayor are running aggressively on their performance re finances and rates. They have presented this graph as part of their social media campaign: Residential Rates Benchmarking

How to assess and rate this graph? The first thing that stands out is that truncated y-axis which is listed #1 at How to Lie with Data Visualisation. There may be circumstances where a y-axis scale needs to be adjusted for relevance. This is not one of them.

While it does state that what is presented is a median residential rate it doesn't reference any source or more detailed clarification. Trying to compare council rates is time consuming and complex with different rates structures. I know that because I have done it, or tried to do it.

Does the comparison include payment and owner-occupier discounts offered by some councils? Does this represent both houses and strata units where there will be a different mix and rates structure for each council? It appears to represent rates inclusive of utility charges. Comparison of water charges can have its own problems particularly with SEQ where there are different arrangements. A single graph to provide a comprehensive comparison is probably impossible to achieve.

If I was scoring this graph out of 10 for me not providing a source reference is the equivalent of not giving Manu any sauce on #MKR. A huge negative. Similarly the y-scale is the equivalent of undercooked chicken, or in this case they have overcooked the graph. While I have always agreed that Cairns rates are generally competitive and comparatively low, which is not new or just a consequence of the current council, I would score this graph only 3 2 out of 10 as a reliable and valid presentation of that.

So how to score this response from Connect Cairns via Twitter ?

I think my response to that Tweet on Twitter was a succinct and probably adequate expression of my contempt. Connect also lose points for degrading Twitter to the standard of Facebook. I score this a negative. Minus 5 (-5). Take it away, it stinks.

Further links: Local Government Comparative Reports;  Benchmarking council rates

1 comment:

  1. I think the data for the Cairns Unity graph came from the Queensland Audit office 2015 Comparative Information Report cdc residential rating file available on the Queensland data portal. The data is by local government/urban centre. There are actually 5 data elements for Cairns. Only Cairns-Manoora at $2471 is under $2500. Cairns-Redlynch $2824 is the highest of the Cairns suburbs. Out of the 239 urban centres, the Cairns suburbs rank 140,145,158,159,184 highest. The Cairns Unity graph implies Cairns is second lowest, which is wrong. The Cairns Unity graph intentionally misrepresents the comparative rate data to make Cairns look relatively lower than it is.