Rowan Moore’s article reminds us of the many benefits public parks deliver (“The end of parklife as we know it?”, New Review). There is, though, one other to consider.
In an unpublished PhD in economics completed in 1999, I studied the question of whether the residents of Northampton placed a positive value on the many public parks in the town. As anyone reading Moore’s article might have guessed, they did.
Statistical analysis of the results, which led to this conclusion, also threw up a more significant finding. Those on lower incomes valued the parks more than did those on higher incomes. Moore mentions a good reason why: the zero price of using public parks means that for this group they are a cheaper recreational alternative.
The result is that cuts in spending on public parks in recent years would have affected lower-income families and individuals more. The losses they experienced as the state of parks deteriorated would have been bigger. In this respect, the cuts are consistent with much of the “austerity” agenda that has tended to target the poor.
Moore discusses how reversing cuts in park spending would have many justifications. But now there is another. Increased spending on public parks would benefit lower-income families and individuals proportionately more and so promote greater economic equality. Moore’s case for increased spending on public parks is even more compelling than he suggests.
Dr Thomas Coskeran
An ill-formed question
I am assisting my son in completing a work capability assessment form. Question 17 reads: “How often do you behave in a way that upsets other people?” As I cannot see this question is of any use whatsoever in assessing the impact of a person’s disability, I can only assume the form doubles as a recruitment tool for the Department for Work and Pensions.
Data danger lurking in Sky deal
A great deal has been written about the proposed 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky, but one important aspect has gone unremarked, namely the safety and security of personal data held by a British company once that company has passed to foreign control.
Sky possesses what is probably the UK’s largest and most sophisticated privately held domestic consumption database. It is one from which huge insight can be derived on the opinions and personality of the household. Domestic content consumption data is particularly powerful because one’s behaviour at home is a more authentic representation of personality and opinions than an individual’s public persona reflected in social media. That data allows it to track the leisure time preferences and behaviours of every one of its subscriber households. This asset, as used by a well-run and well-regulated organisation such as Sky, with no apparent political agenda, represents no especial problem. But allow that data to fall into the hands of an owner with an appetite for political leverage and the temptations and opportunities for misuse become great .
Present legislation has failed to keep pace with technological developments. We believe that, over the coming 12 months, the government will seek to energetically address this issue as well as attempt to strengthen and clarify the criteria by which Ofcom will, in future, apply its “fit and proper” test.
We seek an absolute assurance that, prior to making any final decision as to whether to refer the Fox/Sky deal to the Competition and Markets Authority, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport has fully consulted and taken advice from the information commissioner on the implications of the proposed takeover and that advice be made available to parliament, Ofcom and the CMA. We believe there is an urgent need to ensure that, in the view of the information commissioner, sufficient safeguards and sanctions are already in place to prevent Sky’s rich dataset on the behaviours and consumption habits of over 13 million households in the UK and Ireland being in any way misused or misapplied.
Lord Holmes of Richmond, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, Baroness Kidron, Lord Lansley, Lord McNally, Lord Puttnam
Radicalisation in Kashmir
Michael Safi’s graphic report shows how social media and instant videos have given a new dimension to this conflict, which has defied solution for 70 years (“On the new frontline of conflict in Kashmir, WhatsApp warriors fuel street protests…” News).
As a British Muslim from India who has lived in the UK for over half a century, I consider Kashmir an integral part of India. I am nearly 80 and I despair at the thought of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan if this problem is not resolved soon. I visited Kashmir recently and found it to be tourist-friendly and peaceful, contrary to the reports in the media. I also noticed that Kashmiri Muslim youths – thanks to Saudi Arabia – are being radicalised and several mosques in Srinagar and elsewhere are under the Wahhabi influence. India seems to have turned a blind eye to this sinister development.
Footballers with compassion
It is interesting that Paul Wilson’s article about “The big divide” (Sport, last week), which included a quote describing Premier League players as “overpaid tossers” and asserted that “they find it difficult to intersect with real life”, appeared immediately above a story about Jermain Defoe’s heartrending tribute to his cancer victim friend Bradley Lowery. Perhaps they’re not all so bad after all.