Memorandum by the Local Government Association
1. The Local Government Association (LGA)
is the representative body for all 410 local authorities in England
and Wales. Local authorities have always been major users of census
data, and the 2001 census is no exception to this. Local authorities
will use the data to help to develop local services. Within the
current policy context with the duty of local authorities to prepare
community strategies guided by the local strategic partnership,
good census data will be vital informing local policies and strategies.
2. ONS have consulted extensively with a
wide range of user, and local government has always been seen
as an important sector to gain the views on the development of
the census methodology. The formal mechanism for consultation
between central and local government is the CLIP (Central and
Local Government Information Partnership) Census sub-group which
has met regularly to discuss the census content, methodology,
and outputs. In addition the LGA has a network of Statistics Liaison
Officers in most local authorities in England and Wales and we
have used this network to encourage local authorities to respond.
3. At times there have been delays in the
timetable for different stages of the consultation documents to
be produced for users to comment on. However on the whole documents
have been distributed to users with plenty of time given to respond.
Local authorities appreciated having several weeks to respond
to consultations, as often different service departments would
need to respond to the statistics liaison officers before a response
could be prepared eg education, social services, housing and planning.
4. We felt that the community liaison initiative
operated by the ONS for the 2001 census was an important development.
The LGA worked closely with ONS to encourage local authorities
to work closely with local voluntary and community organisations
to raise the profile of the importance of the census, and encourage
hard-to-reach groups to participate. We hope that all this work
will have brought tangible improvements in raising the level of
enumeration with these groups.
5. Throughout the preparatory stages for
the census ONS have held regional roadshows to consult on plans
for output. These have been an effective way to have dialogue
with users and the LGA has supported this approach throughout.
These roadshows have had a mix of users, including many people
from local authorities.
One Number Census
6. The planning of the 2001 Census includes
major innovations to address the concerns of local authorities
and others over non-response to the 1991 Census, and the limited
treatment of the "missing million" in 1991 Census output.
The 2001 Census was followed up by a very large Census Coverage
Survey; and all the output will be adjusted in detail for the
estimated undercount. ONS have also established a quality assurance
process to examine prior to publication any large differences
between 2001 Census results and other estimates of population.
It is important that users of census material have sufficient
information about the operation of One Number Census processes
when the first results are published in August/September 2002,
so as to be willing to place trust in the figures.
Timetable for Census output
7. The proposed timetable for census output
meets the requirements, envisaged in 1999, for the coming finance
settlements for local authorities with census based estimates
of population for mid 2001 published in August/September 2002.
These settlements follow an annual cycle, and to make a substantial
difference for these processes, the timetable for the delivery
of Census results would need to be advanced by about 10 months.
This does not seem practicable if the improvement in quality promised
by the One Number Census proposals is to be realised.
8. It is very important that later adjustments
or revision are avoided. Local authorities would prefer information
to be delivered on the proposed timetable, rather brought forward
if that were to increase the risk of later revisions, such as
occurred in 1991.
Census access project
9. The LGA was pleased to work with ONS
along with other partners (Department of Health on behalf of the
NHS; Economic and Research Council on behalf of academics; and
the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions
(formerly DETR) on behalf of central Government departments) on
the Census Access Project. This successful Invest to Save Bid
to the Treasury allowed a partnership approach to provide additional
funding to improve the quality and quantity of census outputs.
This approach broadly provides access to standard census output
via the ONS website together with analysis and mapping tools,
free to end users. We believe that this is a real advance in the
2001 census and provides more data to more users through the free
access of the internet.
The comments in this section are based on our
perceptions of how the national census operated.
10. The methodology for the 2001 census
was fundamentally different with census forms being posted back
to the post office rather than collected by enumerators. The rationale
for this approach was to provide more enumerators to target hard-to-reach
groups. It will be interesting to see the difference this approach
has made to the overall enumeration levels in the areas identified
by ONS as being difficult areas. The census coverage survey is
expected to provide a clearer picture of this and allow adjustment
into the One Number Census.
11. There are questions about whether the
field staff recruited by ONS to be enumerators were adequately
trained. One of the issues is that neither enumerators nor census
areas managers were paid very well for such an important task.
We also suggested to ONS that it would be good to carry out a
sample survey of field staff after the census was carried out
to get feedback from field staff on their experiences, and to
learn from this in the future.
12. We have mentioned the Census Access
Project above as being a really positive outcome from the current
work on the 2001 Census. There have also been other positive areas
13. Many local authorities have made extensive
comments on the format of the outputs of census data at different
geographical areaslocal authority, ward and census output
areas. On the whole this has been a positive approach and has
resulted in a much larger volume of outputs being made available
as standard tables. This is to be welcomed and it shows that ONS
have taken on board the comments of a wide range of local authority
14. We also believe that there is a very
real merit in seeing that census outputs will become one of the
major data sources of the new Neighbourhood Statistics Service.
The LGA has long been an advocate of the belief that we need to
get a whole range of data down to the neighbourhood levelthe
census outputs will add real depth to the existing Neighbourhood
Statistics Service data.
15. Another welcome innovation is the creation
of a specific geography for the finest grain of census output.
The quarter of a million census output areas will provide an extremely
detailed framework. The provision of mapping tools to support
the display of information at this level is a highly valued part
of the plans for census output.
16. The timetable and other arrangements
dependent on post back must be reviewed, in the light of the variable
service provided by the Royal Mail across the country, as ONS
17. More information needs to be sought
in advance from administrative systems about likely difficulties
in fieldwork. For example, in identifying areas with large numbers
of vacant properties and second homes, where non-response may
be expected (but need to be verified) because there is no person
at the property eligible to respond. The development of Neighbourhood
Statistics will help in providing such information.
18. Many of the lessons (including successes)
about census output can only be considered after the results have
been delivered, and applied by local authorities and others. We
are hopeful that all the innovations in output will aid a wider
range of activities than previously.