Census consultation

The outcome for the census
After extensive research and a three-month public consultation, ONS are proposing to continue with the full England and Wales census in 2021. Data will be collected mainly online, and supplemented by administrative and survey data. This recommendation from the National Statistician had been accepted by the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, which has commended it to Francis Maude.

The alternative option, replacing a census with data from a combination of government administrative data and compulsory annual surveys, is not being pursued for 2021. It is clear that the points made in response to the consultation, particularly about the value of data on small geographical areas and population groups have been taken on board. Responses by the SRA, RSS and many others argued for the importance of retaining data at this level, and the risks of adopting a largely untested methodology.

ONS now say that ‘further research will be required over the coming months and years to determine the optimal blend of methods and data sources’. This will be needed to inform decisions about the future of the census beyond 2021, but they clearly recognise that data sharing legislation would be required to maximise the benefits of the use of admin data for statistical purposes.

See the ONS website for details


The ONS consultation on the future of the census in England and Wales ran from 23 Sept to 13 December 2013. Two options were presented:

1. A census once a decade, like that conducted in 2011, but primarily online.

2. A census using existing government data and compulsory annual surveys.

The 24-page  consultation document icon_pdf16 is clearly written and we strongly encouraged SRA members to read it and respond if you have a view, by following the link in the document to the online questionnaire.  We asked members to email us with your views, so that the SRA response could take them into account.

This page is a resource for SRA members and others on this issue and mainly consists of links or documents:

SRA response to census consultation icon_pdf16

ONS webpage describing the consultation 

Royal Statistical Society statement on the consultation

Presentations from the SRA Summer Event ‘The Census: Now and in the future’:

icon_pdf16  How is the Census faring? - Impact of 2011 Census - Beyond 2011 Programme (Ian Cope, Director Population and Demography, ONS)

icon_pdf16  Can the use of “big data” eliminate the need for yet another traditional Census in 2021? (Keith Dugmore, Demographic Decisions Ltd.)

icon_pdf16  What’s Needed Locally? (Ludi Simpson, University of Manchester)

icon_pdf16  Discussant’s presentation (Simon Briscoe, Author and Journalist)

Range of presentations at 'The future of small area population statistics', Royal Geographical Society meeting, 21 October 2013.

‘Why do we need a census?’  Blog by Danny Dorling on the Policy Press website

‘Save our Statistics’ – website of the Population Geography Research Group

Presentation by Alistair Calder of ONS icon_pdf16  to the SRA strategy group, 7 Nov 2013

The end of the census?  Event at International Longevity Centre, 28 Nov 2013

Themes for responses to the ONS Beyond 2011 public consultation icon_pdf16 Independent Working Group on Beyond 2011, 29 Nov 2013

RSA response to the public consultation by the Office for National Statistics icon_pdf16 Regional Studies Association, December 2013