Iain Duncan Smith’s department has been caught with its pants down on statistics yet again. DWP minister Baron Freud – grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud – was forced to issue a “correction” after inflating predictions of private-sector affordable housing in London by a whopping 200%.

Estimates of affordable homes available in the wake of reforms to housing benefit were were massaged from as low as 250,000 up to 750,000. The department’s economy with the actualité was exposed followed a question from the now ermine-clad Jim Knight:

Lord Knight: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the letter from Lord Freud deposited in the Library of the House (DEP2010-2327), what was the methodology used to calculate that 750,000 private rented sector homes will still be affordable in London after the housing benefit reforms have been implemented.[HL5749]

Lord Freud: The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): I have written to the noble Lord to correct an error in this letter. There are fewer than 700,000 private rented sector homes in total in London, and a conservative estimate is that about 250,000 of these will still be affordable after the housing benefit reforms have been implemented.

Housing charity Shelter have warned that government proposals on housing benefit could change the “very nature” of the capital. This latest example of dodgy figures comes after the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, wrote to the department identifying “serious deficiencies” in their use of statistics.

Time for the “quiet man” to turn up the volume get a grip on his department.

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