This morning the ‘Met Office News Blog‘ published a post of self congratulation titled ‘A year in the life of the Met Office’ in a tame attempt to justify the ‘news’ (something already examined and trailed by this blog in early May) that its staff will benefit from £1.5m worth of bonus payments.
We learn from the Met Office’s blog post that their Annual Report and Accounts for this year have now been published and are available to view on their website. However as of 12.30pm today all attempts to locate the said information have thus far failed. Accuracy is clearly not something synonymous with the Met Office so this is no great surprise. Nor is attention to detail given the latest news page was apparently last updated on 4 May 2011 even though it holds news releases as recent as 24 June.
We are also told via the blog though that commercial revenues are up £2.9m on last year to £32.2m for FY 2010/11. Interestingly we are also told that for the second year running, the Met Office has exceeded all of its Business Performance Measures, including its weather forecasting targets and business profitability.
One can only assume that the number of commercial customers who have contracts with the Met Office is not a factor in those business performance measures. For this blog learned a month ago through a FOI request that the number of customers purchasing services from the Met Office fell from 1257 last year to 1178 in the year being reported in the accounts. In fact, since 2008-9 the Met Office commercial customer base has shrunk by 17.3%.
While the Met Office is at pains to tell us their range of products and services has increased along with their forecasting quality (dubious doesn’t come close to describing that claim) the fact is the trend in confidence in the department is downward. If their forecasting quality had improved why is it senior Met Office personnel have spent time in the media excusing their performance and saying they need yet more public money to increase their supercomputing capability?
And while the Met Office claims to have ‘accurately forecast 12 of the 13 big weather patterns that blasted the UK last winter and 80% of people surveyed said they were aware of the warnings we put out and 95% of those found the warnings useful‘ it is difficult to have confidence in such assertions when the Met Office’s claim that the public did not want seasonal forecasts was based on a sample of just 16 people – and its claim that it no longer does seasonal forecasts was shown by Met Office Board meeting minutes to be a lie.
When considering this last year in the life of the Met Office perhaps people will do well to take into account the reality rather than the spin emanating from Exeter, designed to head off questions about bonus payments – subsidised by the hard pressed and poorly served taxpayer – that are wholly unjustified.