Supplementary memorandum by the Office
for National Statistics
QUESTION 12: THE
At this stage it is not possible to provide
figures for the final costs of the UK Census in 2001 or those
conducted by other countries. Nevertheless, the following table
provides comparative costs for the censuses conducted during 1990
|Census Cost (Million) ||53.4
|GDP (Million) ||154,310
|Population (Million) ||16.9
|Per Capita Costs||3.16||5.44
|Census Cost as Per Cent of GDP (per cent)
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Population
Census Development and Field Organisation Section, International
Cost Comparisons of Population Censuses.
(a) All figures are 1991 prices (as applicable), unless
(b) All costs have been converted into pounds sterling
using exchange rates at the beginning of April 1991.
(c) All USA figures relate to 1990, including GDP.
(d) Forward estimatesCensus Development and Field
Organisation Section, ABS.
(e) GDP figures are based on calendar year.
(f) Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure
(g) Demography Section, ABS.
The total budget for the 2001 Census in England and Wales
is £207 million. At this stage we do not expect to overspend,
however, final costs cannot be produced until processing has been
completed and outputs published.
QUESTIONS 25-26: THE
At this early stage in Census processing, it would be premature
to make any overall assessment of response rates for the question
on religion. However, preliminary results for the first three
estimation areas, based on analysis of returns from 1.44 million
people, indicate that we can expect the rate to be between 92
per cent and 93 per cent.
These findings are in line with results from our programme
of question testing, most notably returns to the major Census
Test in 1997, which produced an overall completion rate for the
religion question of 91.6 per cent.
QUESTIONS 33-35: THE
THE 1991 CENSUS
The 2001 Census England and Wales Household Forms each had
20 pages covering five persons. Each person had to complete three
pages of questions. In addition, one person in the household was
asked to provide basic information on the names of persons resident
at the address, details of household accommodation and their relationship
to other members of the household.
For example, someone in a single person household would need
to complete the first eight pages of the form.
Whereas a page-per-person layout (questions answered by each
person in turn) was used for the 2001 Census, a matrix design
(answers to each question collected for all members of the household)
was adopted in 1991. As a result the number of pages are not directly
1991 Census England and Wales Household Form 12 pages in
2001 Census England and Wales Household Form 20 pages in
The 2001 Census Form included 41 questions in England and
42 in Wales (where a supplementary question on Welsh language
was included). The equivalent figures for 1991 were 30 and 31
Questionnaire practices now place most emphasis on ensuring
the coherence and understandability of questions, which can often
mean using more space and avoiding the cramming of questions on
a few pages.
QUESTIONS 38, 44: AN
Of the total of over 2.6 million calls received by the Census
Helpline, just under 2.2 million calls were answered by an automatic
response. The automatic responses were designed to deal with the
most common callsrequests for information such as factsheets
and answers to frequently asked questions such as "What is
the Census about?" and "Is it confidential?". Additional
automatic responses were added, as the Census progressed, to answer
specific queries such as "How do I complete the form for
my second home?".
The remaining 470,000 calls were answered by trained advisors.
The following were the main types of these calls during the period
1st April to 30th June 2001:
Fulfilment of Requests for Information 355,656
(including forms, fact sheets, translation materials etc.)
Assistance Required from Field Staff 65,561
(including help to complete the Census Form, the provision
of translation or other facilities)
Queries relating to Specific Census Questions 38,396
(Of these, a third covered general issues such as confidentiality
of the information provided. Queries relating to specific questions
ranged from 3.1 per cent for the question on whether or not you
were working last week to 0.4 per cent for the question on what
is your sex.)
(The substance of complaints included:
concerns about field staff and field operations (including
problems in foot and mouth areas);
the effectiveness of the Census Helpline (including failing
to send out forms properly);
the lack of a "Welsh" or "English" tick
the availability of facilities for blind and partially sighted
There were very few complaints about the number of questions
or the overall length of the form. Of these, most complaints related
to the question on ethnicity and the inability to provide information
on voluntary work.
Further details on the nature of complaints are not available).
Other Queries 4,806
QUESTIONS 7376: A NOTE
Central and local government, the health service and many
commercial organisations need reliable information on the numbers
and characteristics of the population at local, regional and national
levels to manage their businesses effectively. The public sector,
in particular, needs the information to form and evaluate policy,
to distribute resources effectively (around £20 billion to
local authorities and £25 billion to health authorities annually),
to plan and target services and to monitor the effectiveness and
efficiency of these services using measures such as performance
indicators. On this basis alone the Census cost less than one
twentieth of one per cent of the total amount allocated over a
ten year period on the evidence it provides.
Information from the Census will meet a wide range of needs
and is central to the measurement of the Government's progress
towards meeting its objectives including those relating to social
exclusion, health inequalities and racial discrimination. More
specifically, information from the Census is used in conjunction
with other data to develop indicators against which resources
can be targeted and performance measured. For example, analyses
of responses to the question on long-term illness will provide
essential insight for the planning and provision of local health
and social services. Similarly, analyses of questions on qualifications
and employment status will provide training agencies with benchmarks
to properly audit skills and employment levels in different localities.
The information collected from the Census is fundamental
to national planning as it provides the only nation-wide source
of data relating to the numbers and characteristics of the population
which is consistent for small areas.
The need for information about population and housing from
a decennial census has been emphasised by users from all census
customer sectors. For the vast majority of cases the Census is
seen as the only reliable source of data. Alternatives such as
general indicators from central government, administrative sources,
local authorities, or modelled down information from national
surveys, do not currently provide the required levels of accuracy,
detail or the geographic resolution necessary. One of the
significant benefits provided by the Population Census is the
reduced risk of poor decisions as a direct consequence of not
knowing the population characteristics of any area, or of not
having the capacity that the census provides for validating the
quality of surveys and other forms of information.
We have not provided a simple cost benefit analysis for a
Census. There is a large amount of public sector activity that
is allocated to regions or smaller areas, the amount of which
is benchmarked against the census and later population estimates.
We know that the allocation of resource grants becomes progressively
less exact in the intercensal period. Confidence in the resource
allocation process would progressively diminish in line with the
age of the data if censuses were not conducted periodically,
to refresh our knowledge about the population and its structure,
and provide an up to date base for continuing to estimate change.
QUESTION 92: INFORMATION
It is not possible to provide estimates of response by area
until the final census results are available. Areas where postal
response rates were low usually necessitated additional follow
up in the field later.
The following list of areas shows where the postal response
rates were lowest. These figures need to be treated with extreme
caution and cannot be taken as a measure of the success of the
Census in these areas, because more forms were obtained by action
in the field. The figures were:
|Kensington and Chelsea (South)||72%
|Tower Hamlets/Hackney (South)||70%
|Kensington and Chelsea (North)||64%
These figures represent the number of forms returned via
the Post Office during the enumeration period as a percentage
of the previously estimated number of households in each area.
The figures are consistent with a postal response rate of 88 per
cent across England and Wales. They take no account of forms collected
by enumerators during the follow-up period or forms returned to
the Census Office by post after the enumeration period. Areas
with lower response rates were the subject of more intensive and
longer follow-up than those areas with very high response rates.
The percentages do not allow for vacant properties or second homes
which are likely to be particularly numerous in Central London.
Also note that all areas, with the exception of Westminster North,
exceeded the most optimistic target postal response rates of 60
per cent in London and 70 per cent elsewhere.
The area of Westminster North stretches from St John's Wood
in the north to Mayfair and Knightsbridge in the south and to
Bayswater and Paddington in the north west. Much of the area comprises
purpose-built flats or flats in conversions of larger houses mixed
with hotels, shops and other commercial premises. Accordingly,
it is particularly difficult to estimate the number of residential
household spaces in such areas, and the denominator used in calculating
the percentage postal response is most likely to be inflated.
In addition, the population is cosmopolitan and typified by short
term residence. In these circumstances a high proportion of household
spaces are likely to be either vacant, between lets, under improvement
or pied-a-terres. The combined effect is an exaggerated non-response
rate. The area is not unique in this respect, other areas of Inner
London listed above are similar, but the effect is probably more
marked in Westminster North than in any of the other areas.
Memorandum supplements oral evidence given by the National Statistician
on Wednesday 24 October 2001. See Ev 12. Back