Experimenting on You: Council Running Behavioural Science Unit

During the course of an investigation involving several Freedom of Information requests, it has been revealed that North Yorkshire Council are running a Behavioural Science Unit. They are trying to change the behaviour of you and of staff.

I’m going to start by winding back to 2020 when the then North Yorkshire County Council was involved with this little scheme (also involving the now infamous Behavioural Insights Team). To be absolutely fair on this first part I do accept there is an argument that those involved at the council could have been entirely well meaning, though in my view badly wrong on the subject matter. The purpose of the below is to set the scene for what the council are now doing.

You’ll notice on page 4 of this document the phrase “Identify target behaviours and outcomes“. This is the council deciding how it wants you to behave. Forwarding on to page 6 the manipulation technique of “Appealing to people’s sense of altruism” is mentioned. I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with wanting to be kind and some of those involved may have been sincere, but when it was tied into a multinational manipulation scheme over a virus which was downgraded before the first UK lockdown to not being a High Consequence Infectious Disease, I personally have to question this scheme.

Had the council’s focus been on seeking truth rather than going along with the current thing I may have viewed this scheme more kindly. As it is over following years we have seen the council (now in the guise of North Yorkshire Council) promoting net zero and also being so in with the “current thing” as to deliberately ignore safeguarding procedures around children and to absurdly report a hate crime to the police against someone trying to highlight evidence of a danger to children posed by an individual the council were paying to interact with children.

Now of course I am not accusing North Yorkshire Council as being the originator of the obscene “Project Fear” that the above document tied into, but they were going along with it and it shows they (in a former guise) were embedding behavioural change into their way of working and what they are now doing in running their own Behavioural Science Unit is something I consider to be extremely sinister.

If we now jump onto what the council is now doing in terms of behavioural change, this is where I am feeling somewhat less generous in viewing the whole thing as well meaning and I am absolutely coming down on the side of their behaviour now being overreach and controlling. That is not to say that everything and everyone involved with this is acting maliciously (obviously encouraging people to eat well and exercise is not bad), it is simply my view that overall the council running a Behavioural Science Unit and experimenting on its staff and the public is wholly unacceptable.

As you can see from the above the council is running a Behavioural Science Unit to change your behaviour. Whilst some of the things mentioned may seem tame or even good on the schemes listed, there are however some concerning and divisive ones such as the HPV uptake where I would suggest the council look into why people don’t want this. By far the most concerning on the list to me is “Optimising Support for Secondary School Relationship and Sex Education Provision“. Given the aforementioned disregard and contempt mentioned earlier in this article, with which the council addressed a valid concern around serious sexual danger to children, it gives me deep concern to see them looking to optimise support. A further freedom of information request will be going in to ask for more specifics on this particular scheme.

In summary and put simply this whole unit is outrageous behaviour from the council. The council is there to serve you, to empty your bins, to help fund the police and fire services and other things of benefit to the public via the council tax. It seems delusions of grandeur have firmly taken hold at the council with your mind now their property (in their eyes at least). It is time councils up and down the land were put back in their rightful place and things were re-balanced. They are the servants and we are the masters and the aim should be to make this land a great place to live.

As a closing note I’d like to give a thank you to the Freedom of Information team at North Yorkshire Council for the time they are spending answering requests for me and providing information back to me.

4 responses to “Experimenting on You: Council Running Behavioural Science Unit”

  1. Louise McLindon avatar
    Louise McLindon

    This is very concerning information . Thank you for highlighting how our councils are stepping above their intended purpose. They have no business in manipulating people’s behaviour . This is all being done without proper public scrutiny.

    1. Elsa avatar

      This is concrning can you tell me about west yorkshire heading hyde park? Please .

  2. Carrie avatar

    Get hold of all the minutes from meetings of the BSU, it’s your right and duty to scrutinise their actions.

  3. Alan avatar

    Good idea I will ask for those

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