Memorandum by Telford and Wrekin Council
1. Data on population is for local authorities
a key input into service planning. It is also the basis on which
a substantial element of government grant is allocated.
2. The importance of good quality population
data is particularly vital in local areas which are experiencing
rapid growth such as Telford & Wrekin. (Telford & Wrekin
is one of the 25 fastest growing authorities in the county with
population increasing by around 1 per cent per annum).
3. Telford & Wrekin (and a number of
other fast growing authorities) have had continuing concerns about
the accuracy of annual population estimates. The particular concern
is that population estimation methodologies have traditionally
tended to under-estimate the populations of fast growing areas
in those periods between Censuses. This in terms imposes substantial
financial penalties on affected committees.
4. The Census is, therefore, a very key
event, providing as it does the opportunity to validate and reconcile
the Office of National Statistics annual Mid Year Estimates.
5. Another concern about population data
in fast growing areas is that of data drag. Information is always
retrospectively calculated. Thus the mid-year estimates for 2001
(based upon the Census data) will not be published until August
2002 and will be the basis of financial allocations for 2003-04.
On average the data utilised for local authority funding purposes
is over two years out of date.
6. In terms of the utility of the Census
output, the information is clearly of critical importance to fast
growing authorities. Indeed the faster the growth of the locality,
the more important the data becomes.
7. There are, however, weaknesses in terms
of the outputs that the Census is able to provide. These are:
(a) A census every 10 years is too infrequent
for rapidly growing authorities whose population may have increased
5 per cent, 10 per cent or even more over this period.
(b) Rapid growth areas do appear to be potentially
at risk of having their population undercounted through the mid-year
(c) The information provided for local authorities
is always retrospective, which in turn financially penalises those
faster growing areas.
8. In the light of this evidence it is suggested
that further consideration needs to be given to:
Ensuring that population data in
rapidly growing areas is given particular attention between Censuses
to maintain accuracy.
Developing a methodology that enables
current rather than retrospective data to be used for national
planning and grant distribution purposes.
Unless these actions are considered, those areas
which in practice need most support because of the change they
are experiencing will in practice tend rather to be penalised.
30 January 2002