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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

LAST night at an Area Assembly Meeting, Cllr. Brian Haley admitted to having reservations about a question in the council's recent on-line survey about Council Governance.

This questionnaire sought to establish your opinion on whether the council should have a council leader with enhanced powers or a directly elected Mayor. This was the first and only question on the subject and it was brief to the point of terse. There was no background information on the survey itself, although there was on the council's website.

The following questions related to more intimate detail.

More than 95% of the on-line questionnaire was about the respondent's personal characteristics. Age and gender are pretty standard. But most of it was about race in the finest detail, sex, religion and disability. The most curious question of all asked if you'd had a sex change operation (although more delicately worded).

I regard council governance as a serious question. If the consultation is reasonably about Council Governance (as encouraged by government policy) and Haringey treats us to a question as to whether we have had a sex change, how seriously can we take this survey?

I understand this remarkable question appears in other documents the council produces; indeed it was repeated in a questionnaire hand-out at the council's Area Assembly meeting.

To re-punctuate an American slogan: "Your tax dollars: at work?!"

Is someone at the council taking the piss?

Or are they serious?

If so, I think some council officers need to get outside the municipal bubble and ask real people, including those who have had "gender reassignment", how such questions are relevant to council governance.

[I find it hard to beleive this is a factual account of what has happened. I have attached a screen-shot, by way of pinching myself]


Tags for Forum Posts: council, governance, online, operation, piss-take, questionnaire, sex-change

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I also thought that a bizarre question!
What's the problem here? Haringey has a legal obligation to ensure that they do not discrimate against transgender people in the same way as they should not discriminate on the grounds of sexuality, or race, or age, or disability. A diversity policy is worthless without monitoring. To monitor you need to ask the question.
But by identifying transgender people, they are discriminating against them. What possible difference does it make to the council whether or not I've had a sex change?
Why stop there? why not have a monitor, better word, 'a register' of all transvestites too?

surely this is the current government's obsession about registeration of all assets and now people for their id for further interrogation?

I am best described a woman but sometimes wake up feeling differently.
With the novel question about sex-change operations, the London Borough of Haringey breaks new ground.

Perhaps in time, when the boundaries of personal-attribute enquiries are pushed even further, we may come to expect questions on autoeroticism.

A subject about which some Council Officers clearly enjoy some experience.

Some trans-people want to identify as being a trans person, not male or female. The inclusion of a trans-gender category is pretty common in equalities monitoring. Haringey are not the only borough who include the definition - it was in a equalities monitoring section of a questionnaire I filled out for Westminster City Council yesterday.

By the way - sex change isn't really a fair way to describe being trans-gender. For a trans-person they haven't changed sex, they have become the gender they always were by changing what we see.
THE question is raised about the value of a diversity policy without monitoring. How much is this example of monitoring worth? Let us put aside the question about the relevance of sex-change operations in a consultation about council governance.

Let us instead consider it as a exercise in equalities monitoring.

This is perhaps appropriate since 95% of the questions in the consultation were "monitoring" type questions. (But by volume of words, probably 99% of the survey on Council Governance was "monitoring".)

Was this the right balance?

If the results are being tabulated, is this in truth no more than a council make-work exercise?

A survey like this does not have the authority or compulsion of something like the Census. It is undertaken voluntarily. The online survey is not comparable with a scientifically conducted survey: it is a self-selecting sample of views.

There is no check on the accuracy of answers to the "monitoring questions". As I suspect along with others, I ignored the questions I didn't want to answer but doubtless some folk will not be able to resist having some fun at council expense. Individuals may pick and choose races, religions and gender identifies, just for having a laugh.

Everyone knows that there are no consequences for providing false information in a survey like this. But the accuracy of the resulting statistics in the council's register or database of monitoring data is potentially much worse:

In the online survey, there was apparently no restriction on completing the form a second time, or more (in a professionally conducted online survey, the server logs a respondent's IP address and prevents people having a second go). Apparently there was no limit to the amount of times one could fiddle about with the different combinations.

Example: I am a 90+ year old, Bisexual Rastafarian Irish Traveller, "Best" described as a woman, but nonetheless having a gender identify different from my birth sex.

That's is the best I can do but perhaps others can come up with more unusual combinations.

In the recent area assembly meeting, our Soapbox Speaker entertained the whole meeting, including cabinet member Cllr. Brian Haley, with his examples of far-fetched combinations of respondent he dreamt up. I think he went on entering fanciful data until he got bored!

I have never discriminated against trans-gender people and never would. But as Danzigger points out, the council is now choosing to invite transsexuals to identify themselves (with name, address & phone number) and go onto a Haringey council database. For what reason?

If I was a trans gender person, I might well wish not to identify myself to the council in this way, but I still might hold views that I wanted to be taken seriously, about council governance (in case anyone had forgotten the ostensible purpose of the survey).

I agree with Caroline's point in the sense that Haringey are clearly trying (albeit clodfootedly) to make sure that they monitoring diversity among the people who responded to that consultation.

But the odd thing about this to me is that the answers don't mean much unless you know what % of people in Haringey are transgender. Otherwise what does it tell you? Say 2% of the people who take part in your survey are classified in this way - does that mean you have represented them adequately? Or not enough? Or too much??
Perhaps they intend to introduce a quota of transgendered people in their employment policy ? Or will the Council have to have a proportionate number of transgendered councillors?

I agree with Clive. These seemingly innocent, well-meaning questions may be all very well here and now. But attitudes within a state can change. Wouldn't Hitler have loved to have had a convenient database identifying Jews, Homosexuals and Gypsies ?
Okay, how's this: I'm reporting as an able-bodied 0 – 4 year old (yes, the council has a check-box for this important age group); I'm a "White and Black Caribbean" woman whose gender, remarkably, does not "differ from [my] birth sex" and I am also a Jewish Lesbian.

Every one of these is an element in a council category, inviting you to give this kind of information about yourself.

Despite all the council check-boxes, I feel discriminated against by Haringey: their monitoring procedures ignore an important variance from the norm. I am left-handed (historically, gauche and Sinistre; sometimes associated with witches). The incidence of left-handedness if greater than most of the council-selected characteristics.

I am also short, which is another group sometimes suffers discrimination: Haringey have not asked for my height and make no attempt to monitor this diversity. They didn't bother to ask my weight either. Fat people are sometimes discriminated against.

There is no end to the number of real or imagined discriminations. One effect of this watering down (feature-bloat?) is to trivialise real discrimination.

(Oh, incidentally, I think we should have a directly elected Mayor, but its just a point of view, not important).

The equalities questions have a very simple aim. When you are consulting, you want to make sure you gather the views of the broadest range of the population possible. The only way to find out if you are is to profile those who respond, which is what an equality survey aims to do.

I used to carry out consultations at lot in a previous job and in the early days the great majority of responses I got were from white people, aged 40 and above and living in NW3 (I work for Camden). Because of that I changed the ways I consulted to try and get hold of a broader range of views and used equalities monitoring to see if I was having any impact. That's all it's about.
Michael perhaps I'm a bit dim and I'm missing something obvious here. I'm trying hard to take this seriously, so here goes another time:

(For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the council has truly gathered accurate data on those with gender reassignment – in my view, an heroic assumption.)

How might Haringey Council better construct their "Leadership Survey" under any one of the following conditions? ...

(a) the response rate from recorded trans-gender people is a similar proportion as the incidence of gender reasignment in the general population.

(b) the response rate from recorded trans-gender people is significantly less than the incidence of gender reasignment in the general population

(c) the response rate from recorded trans-gender people is significantly greater than the incidence of gender reasignment in the general population

In order better to understand your point, is it possible to answer with specific reference to consultation about council leadership? (rather than a generic answer) – I'm still trying find that elusive link between questions on Municipal Governance & gender reassignment. I don't mind if you attempt to answer only one of these and please answer in any way that you feel appropriate.

This question inspired by Alison's remarks about percentage-in-the-population. Thanks for your patience.





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