Friday 18 September 2009

Exclusive: Express 'exclusive' is rubbish

Having criticised the Express before for a complete lack of anything even remotely related to an interesting or important exclusive, today's page four story looked promising. The headline even began with the word 'exclusive':

Exclusive: Another rubbish idea, lessons for immigrants on how to empty bins

This headline seems to highlight the problem of Express staff shortages and their sacking of subs. Because surely if these 'lessons' do exist (they don't), they're about filling bins, not emptying them.

But is it a real exclusive? The Express say:

The astonishing lessons were revealed in a confidential Whitehall document obtained by the Daily Express.

Perhaps they are on to something. Or perhaps not. Because that 'confidential Whitehall document' appears to have been on the Communities and Local Government Department website since early July.

'Exclusive' indeed.

Macer Hall's story begins:

Immigrants are to be taught how to recycle their rubbish in lessons paid for by the public.

A typical opening gambit to make Express readers choke on their cornflakes. But it's an interesting use of the phrase 'the public'. Why? Because much later in the story Hall makes clear the money for these projects is from a:

£70million fund – paid for by a £50 levy on migrant workers arriving in the UK.

So it is services for immigrants paid for by migrants. Why should anyone else care?

Hall then goes through the document and picks out some of the projects in an entirely selective - and dishonest - way. For example:

Sheffield has been awarded £400,000 to increase “awareness of waste disposal” among its immigrants.

And here is what that money is actually for:

Housing and Waste by increasing landlord accreditation and increased awareness of waste disposal and storage. Health by increasing immunisation and benefiting child wellbeing.

Which is slightly different, and Hall forgets to mention the latter half entirely. He also highlights:

Thamesmead, Greenwich and Bexley councils in London have together been handed £145,000 for the “training of community members to liaise with new arrivals on rights and responsibilities regarding recycling/waste disposal”.

But the full description is:

Police (reducing ASB), LA environmental services (refuse and recycling), LA Housing services through the training of community members to liaise with new arrivals on rights and responsibilities regarding recycling/waste disposal, legal responsibilities regarding anti-social behaviour and how to develop a sense of citizenship through participating in community life.

So the claim that:

£1.3million from the Government’s Migration Impact Fund is being spent on the lessons

is wrong because there are clearly other aspects to each project - such as health and anti-social behaviour.

And the idea that migrants are going to be sent to 'lessons' doesn't stand up either. Take another project which Hall highlights, where:

Cambridgeshire County Council is to get £75,000 target landlords to reduce complaints concerning noise and rubbish.

This isn't inaccurate as a description of the project, but it doesn't even remotely sound like 'lessons in emptying bins'. Or filling them. Or whatever.

There are the obligatory comments from the Opposition, the Taxpayer's Alliance ('it is absurd...' etc) and someone called Doretta Cocks from the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, whoever they are (apparently, some tinpot Campaign Against Political Correctness-type obsessives who do little but give out quotes at the drop of a hat, and have an equally ugly website).

So it's not an exclusive, because it's two months old; it's not a confidential document, because it's been on a government website for two months; there aren't any 'lessons'; the figures are bogus and the descriptions half-truths. And the headline is nonsense.

In other words: total rubbish.

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