Inflation blues

Things are gettin’ worse in the city
Things are gettin’ tough
And I got those mean inflation blues

The world of e-government marches on, albeit perhaps not in step, and a new service is launched. The brave folks at the Office of National Statistics have launched a personal inflation calculator. Not something that honestly tells you how much weight you’ve gained on the short highway to obesity, but a widget that compares your personal spend rate against the national spend rate.

Always game to try something new, off I went to the “PIC” site to be confronted by the imperative:

“If you have sn SVG viewer, download the online Personal Inflation Calculator Or download the zip version for offline use”

I have no idea if I have or don’t have an SVG viewer. In fact, I have no idea at this point what an SVG viewer might be. Given the site I’m on perhaps it’s some kind of Statistics Viewing Grid. I gamely clicked on the online version.

The screen – on my Mac – fills with boxes (all empty), no text, a graph and some very artistic blobs in all different colours. Perhaps I don’t have an SVG viewer?

The offline version deposits a file called “prerelease 3 correct” on my desktop which, when unzipped and opened, contains exactly the same screen. Perhaps I really don’t have an SVG viewer and I misunderstood the meaning of the “or” on the first screen.

Back to screen 1 where on following the SVG viewer link I learn, from Adobe, that it is for looking at Scalable Vector Graphics. There’s a helpful picture of a phone with a graphic on it implying somehow that I also need a mobile phone to use this thing. Still, good news, it’s royalty-free, vendor-neutral open standard developed under the W3C Process. And it provides high-quality graphics on resource-limited handheld devices (hyphens all theirs). I also learn that the product will be end-of-lifed (hyphens mine) in two years – I hope someone’s watching out for that – what a market opportunity awaits someone who can develop a better one.

This thing is available in 20 languages. And at least 4 operating systems. If only government websites met those standards.

But, I still can’t make the PIC work, despite downloading the SVG viewer. Maybe it’s because I’m using a Mac?

Switching to my PC and going through the same download palaver (and using IE, not Firefox), I make it work.

Before I even get to the mortgage, the calculator has my inflation rate at 5% versus a national rate of 4%. With the house and related spend in (council tax, furnishings and so on), I’m quickly up to a 7.2% inflation rate versus a national rate of 3.9%.

What’s interesting is the sensitivity and the default values. For instance

– The default value for outstanding mortgage is £17,630. Changing this to a more reasonable number (the average London house price is, say, £300,000 and lucky people borrow perhaps 80% of that ). Just making that one change pushes the inflation rate to 6.9%

– The monthly spend on food is just £200 (seems unlikely to me). Putting in a wild number – £1000 – brings my personl inflation (with all other numbers left to default) to 3.8% instead of 3.9%

There’s hours of fun to be had here I’m sure. Like I said, the ONS folks are brave for putting this up because it will, when there’s a slow day in the news, invite a few stories about the horrendous inaccuracies in the inflation rate for most people. If the stories are balanced, they’ll quickly see how some families are likely to have done rather better than the national average, but inthis land of big mortgages, most people are going to be suffering more and more with interest rate rises pushing their outgoings up and salary caps being held firm.

I haven’t the faintest idea what posessed ONS to decide to use some offbeat software tool, this SVG thing, as the basis for their new calculator though.

Hey Mr. Prime Minister
All your parliamentarians, too
You got me frustrated
And I don’t know what to do
I’m trying to make a living
I can’t save a cent
It takes all of my money
Just to eat and pay my rent
I got the bluesGot those inflation blues

4 thoughts on “Inflation blues

  1. no link to follow there. but that\’s besides the point … the process to get th svg reader is tortuous and irrespective of whether it\’s used everywhere, i don\’t have it on my browser – and i\’ve been browsing since 1994

  2. What\’s the point of the endless list of archives? What is their click through rate?If you are refreshing your blog, dump or shift the deadwood so I don\’t have to look at it and ignore it.

  3. Fair comment on the archives, I really hadn\’t noticed, but you\’re right, 800 line items of archives was useless. i\’ve made it archive in monthly groupings now so there are only 60 or so lines. hope that\’s less irritating.

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