Select Committee on Treasury Written Evidence

Memorandum from Manchester City Council


What are the uses of population estimates, and how far do current population estimates meet the needs associated with those uses? What are the effects of inaccuracies or inadequacies in such estimates?

  National Census, Mid-Year Estimate (MYE) and Sub-National Population Projections (SNPP) have two uses, where type 2 is dependent on type 1:

    1.  Setting the level of Revenue Support Grant (RSG), where inaccuracies and errors can have a profound affect on the Local Authorities (LA's) budget over the next decade. In Manchester's case the 2001 Census undercount and the subsequent Census Study by ONS restored an estimated 30,000 persons to the 2001 MYE worth over £100 million over the lifetime of the Census. The Census itself remained unchanged and information in relation to households and population in Manchester remain undercounted thereby influencing the interpretation of data for policy making, resource allocation and planning;

    2.  LA service planning, target setting, performance indicators, funding bids, Best Value evaluations, as a denominator for other variables such as life expectancy, Index of Deprivation and producing small area demographics for wards or other catchment areas such as Housing Market Renewal. Also used by many other external organisations, partnerships and voluntary groups for the same purposes.

  Inaccuracies and errors may have a profound effect at small area level where this can skew service planning or the take up of services, for example wrongly associating a small area as having a large elderly population.

How appropriate is a definition of the population based on the usually resident population in the context of the needs of the users?

  The usually resident population counts all persons who live in residential accommodation. It also counts students at their term-time address, so where they spend most of the year, persons in communal establishments, long-term international migrants (LTIMs—persons staying 12 months or more).

  It does not count visitors (person staying for less than 3 months, which includes tourists), or short-term international migrants (STIMs—persons staying for more than 3 months and less than 12 months).

  A count of visitors would be useful for service planning reasons and for considering the funding/resources implications.

  The only available data that indicates international migration is the National Insurance Number (NINo) registration to overseas nationals. However, NINo registration does not tell us how many are short-term and how many long-term, about those who do not register, or if they are still in Manchester, or even in the country.

  International migrants contribute to the local economy and have a positive impact. The extent of that contribution considered alongside what actual social pressure they make on services is hard to quantify and requires more research.

  Since STIMs are mainly from the EU, North America and Antipodes, are young and single, and tend to find vacant posts in the catering and leisure industry through workplace notices and word of mouth, it might be supposed that very little pressure is put on LA services. Some pressure may be put on private rented accommodation and refuse collection associated with this type of property, public transport, but it may help some bus routes that are not viable, hospital A&E (there is some anecdotal evidence that STIMs see no point in registering with a GP) and possibly the police, through increased emphasis on community cohesion. More research needs to be conducted into these and other areas of potential pressure on services.

  ONS is presently working on producing a STIMs count in consultation with LAs. However, since STIMs data will come from the same source, the IPS (International Passenger Survey), it is unlikely that the methodology will be acceptable to those LAs who reject the new LTIMs methodology. A count for planning purposes would be very useful, but the affect which STIMs have on public services needs further research.

  Clearly illegal immigrants are very hard to count, but those who arrived legally and overstay should have been covered from arrival by the IPS (from grossing up the IPS), or from Home Office asylum applications and are, therefore, already recognised by ONS' MYE methodology as included in the national count, although it would be useful to have a separate, and more detailed, explanation of how they are estimated and distributed to LAs.

  Illegal immigrants who enter the country illegally are not included within counts

  Rough sleeper numbers are very tiny in the overall context of the total population (current count is 7), often with a rapid turnover and subject to seasonal fluctuations, so would be difficult to include in a resident count. Residents who become homeless are already counted in the MYE and those from outside Manchester will be picked up like any other internal migrant when they register with a GP

  A count of residents of a LA is probably the most robust count that can be made, but an attempt to count the total population present, if it could be broken down into its constituent parts, would be useful for service planning. The 2011 Census will attempt to count residents and persons present, which MCC supports.

How does the quality and range of population statistics in England and Wales compare with that available in Scotland, Northern Ireland and internationally?

  There was a different level of geography in Scotland in 2001, with Data Zones being much smaller than Output Areas (OA) in England, so data was available at a more local level. MCC would have preferred the OAs in England to be redrawn to the equivalent size, or the current ones to be split in two, but ONS consultation with LAs this year on Small Area Geography accepted that current OAs should be kept for continuity and ONS have not accepted the idea of splitting OAs on the grounds of Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC).

  Different SDC rules applied in Scotland in 2001, so that data was more reliable at local level. Clearly, individuals need to be guaranteed that they cannot be identified by Census output tables, however, it is important that the data used by LAs makes sense at OA level. The method used by ONS in 2001 did not always make sense. For example, there were OAs containing a number of residents in communal establishments, but no communal establishments and vice versa. ONS original intentions to release OA data was reduced to one table only and even that data was so modified as to be of little use. The General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) used a mainly pre-tabulation method of record swapping that Scottish LA users considered fit for purpose.

  The three Statistical Agencies in the UK produced a preliminary paper on UK SDC policy principles in November 2006. The paper is a very good starting point for producing a new SDC methodology and is to be subject to consultation at some point. MCC supports this new approach and will participate in the consultation.


How does the Census contribute to the creation of population statistics? Is the current frequency of Censuses appropriate and, if not, how frequent should Censuses be?

  The MYE is Census based and the SNPP is MYE based, so the Census is fundamental to both Type 1 and Type 2 uses outlined above. The Census is the only survey of the whole country at the same point in time and its importance to creating and understanding LA population profiles cannot be exaggerated. But because it happens only once every 10 years, some of the data collected starts to lose value as the years go by, especially for a LA like Manchester, with its large student population, young age structure and high levels of mobility.

  Unless, or until, there is a move towards improving and enhancing the collection of robust national administrative data sets (such as the ONS proposal for an "integrated population statistics system" (IPSS) to replace the Census), a Census, or partial Census (as in Canada) every five years would be supported by MCC. However, it remains to be seen if an IPSS will be good enough to stand-alone or if it may still need support from a partial Census of some kind.

What lessons have been learnt from the Test Census carried out on 13 May 2007? What methods should be employed for the distribution and completion of Census forms, including the use of the Internet?

  ONS have not reported yet on the 2007 Census Test.

  However, they have reported on the Coverage of Address Registers used for the 2007 Test Areas. The Address Test based on 2006 data compared OS MasterMap ® Address Layer 2 and the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG). The results showed in the two Test Areas most like Manchester, an undercount in both Registers for Camden, and an undercount for Liverpool in the former and an overcount in the latter.

  The 2001 Census undercount for Manchester was mainly the result of missed addresses, where the Census Study added 24,600 persons to the MYE, and an estimated 5,500 mainly young men were also missed in wholly absent, or partly absent households, so the lack of a comprehensive address database concerns MCC greatly.

  The proposed methodology for delivery and return of Census forms, by post out and post back, is probably not suitable for areas of Manchester which are difficult to enumerate.

  The Scottish 2006 Census Test showed, not surprisingly, that the response was much better with hand delivery of the forms and GROS have decided to go with hand enumeration. MCC would prefer hand delivery and collection, to be made by trained enumerators with local knowledge. We are working to improve our Local LLPG generally, and for the 2011 Census in particular.

  MCC is committed to the local government initiative to enhance the quality of the NLPG to make it the definitive addressing source.

  The extent to which ONS engage with local government to support the delivery of the Census will be enhanced by a high quality NLPG and ONS need to consider how best to support the development in conjunction with local government. Clearly, if the intention is to rely heavily on postal delivery this may tend to indicate a requirement to use postal systems derived addressing but this will not be universally the best solution.

  Additionally, the extent to which geographical based systems can be used by enumerators as an aid when visiting addresses needs to be harnessed and, again, this would be enhanced through collaboration.

  To see the selection of an address register as a choice between two rival products is likely to restrict access to valuable address data.

  In our view, one critical point, learned from the address matching exercise following the 2001 Census, was the need to be clear how many dwelling spaces there were in each area because this forms the basis of fundamental tests of accuracy by establishing the total amount of forms which ought to be returned. Also, through effective address referencing, it enables those forms to be tracked so that none go missing as they did in 2001 and it facilitates the flexible deployment of enumerators to those areas exhibiting low levels of form return.

  ONS will need to select an addressing strategy which does the job required and current arguments about commercial rights to address registers are inhibiting this choice.

  Interactive use of the Internet will appeal to a growing number of people and should be tested to ensure accuracy can be achieved and to understand the impact on enumeration resources.

What steps should be taken to increase the rate of responses to the Census, particularly in hard-to-reach areas? How effective are plans to measure the extent of non-response to the 2011 Census?

    1.  Comprehensive address registers are the first essential;

    2.  By ONS working closely with LAs, as they did in the Test Areas, to identify persons and areas that are hard-to-reach. This is best done by utilising LAs' local knowledge and expertise;

    3.  By hand delivery and collection, at least in the hardest areas;

    4.  That ONS utilise LA staff with their local knowledge as enumerators, give them better training, more incentives, better enumeration tool kits (particularly electronic support), better support from managers and supervisors, provided by LAs to ONS, and more time to collect and repeat collection visits than the 2001 Census methodology allowed;

    5.  By having a rigorously thorough community liaison and publicity plan, developed by LAs, who know their own communities better than ONS, but utilising ONS support and resources;

    6.  By an effective system of form tracking to ensure completeness of processing and enable the flexible use of resources.

  ONS plans for measuring non-response are not yet fully described, but the Coverage and Adjustment Strategy has been/is subject to consultation. The plans in theory are very good, but they rely on some elements that did not perform well in 2001. The proposal for a Census Coverage Survey (CVS) remains the same, but with some necessary improvements. The use of a dual system estimator remains the same, but it recognises that the Census and the CVS are not independent of each other. The One Number Census methodology used in 2001 was not all bad, but calling it "One Number" was. ONS clearly do not intend to make the same mistakes. The methodology showed ONS that the count for Manchester was well below the Confidence Intervals used in the Quality Assurance (QA) process, but ONS decided that the QA method was wrong, going against their own methodology that was agreed to by MCC. That must not happen again.

  It is essential for LAs to have confidence in 2011, that there are procedures to appeal population estimates, on the basis of evidence of departure from procedures, or large departures from expectations. This latter is properly part of the quality assurance process, which is not yet described by ONS but will become an integral part of the adjustment of census counts for coverage. This process of QA and appeals procedure must be transparent to, and involve, LAs.

To what extent is there a trade-off between the length of the Census form and its role in providing population information? What questions should be included in the 2011 Census?

  In all surveys there is a trade off between the length of the questionnaire and the response rate. The extent of the trade depends upon the relevance of the survey to the individual and the level of incentive, or punishment for non-completion.

  MCC's first priority is to keep the Census questionnaire as short and as easy to understand, and complete accurately, by the respondent as possible. In order to achieve the best possible response rate and most reliable population count, MCC's view is that new questions should not be added at the expense of the response rate.

  We favour the inclusion or enhancement of questions that clarify and expand population definitions and bases (for example, population present). This is essential in order to improve the reliability and validity of the Census as the base for the MYE and SNPP. We also support the inclusion of an Income Question, but only if the 2007 Test shows that it does not undermine the response rate. The 2006 Scottish Census Test showed that it did not affect the response rate.

  We do not suggest adding more questions, unless some old questions that are no longer required to be answered are removed.

  One well-worded question on qualifications is all that is needed, whether respondents have professional qualifications that they do not use for employment purposes is not required and could be seen as intrusive. This question in the 2001 Census in Manchester produced the highest level of non-response (22.6%). Also number of employees at the workplace caused considerable confusion. For example, is the workplace the whole organisation or the respondent's office? In Manchester, 18.6% of respondents did not respond.

  The wording of questions, and the cognitive testing of the wording, is essential to interpretation and meaning and a limitation on questions requiring subjective answers is required, especially where the questions are used for the allocation of resources to LAs. For example the question on Long-Term Limiting Illness (LTLI) as ONS recognised from previous Census Tests by adding the wording "Include problems which are due to old age" recognises a difference in interpretation by age group. The large increase in LTLI between 1991 and 2001 in some areas, indicates both changing attitudes to disability which affects the way respondents interpret this question and also a subjective interpretation as some people see their illness, or disability, as limiting, long-term and severe, compared to others with the same illness, or disability, who do not.

  MCC overall supports the Census topics staying as close as possible to the 2001 form, as continuity and comparability should be given a high priority for the Key Statistics. So many government-funded projects require performance measurement and this can only be done if some of the questions remain unchanged.

To what extent should Census questions and statistical information be coordinated across the United Kingdom and how effective are plans to ensure such coordination?

  The three Statistical Agencies in the UK are preparing to coordinate the Census, which is no doubt a good idea, but except for getting LAs in England and Wales a better SDC, is not an issue of any great importance to MCC.

  What forms should the outputs of the 2011 Census take, how and when should they be made available and how should they be integrated and coordinated with other information on population?

  LAs have a need for timely, easily accessed, clearly formatted, statistically reliable, UK consistent data, for all geographies including wards and with a high ability to compare Key Statistics with the previous Census. However, Manchester had a ward boundary change in 2004 and OAs no longer fit to our new wards.

  The National Statistics Small Area Geography (SAG) consultation this year showed that 36% of respondents (of which 54% were from LAs) wanted ward level geography, with 44% of LAs mentioning wards. No question was asked about wards in this consultation. If it had been, no doubt the support from LAs would have been higher. Without ward level data, statutory requirements such as producing Five Year Forecasts for the Boundary Commission of England would be even more difficult to do with any confidence than it is now. ONS have decided to maintain the OA and Super OA geography, but have not as yet guaranteed any ward level data. MCC require such a guarantee and we would like to see the 2001 Census re-issued to the same ward boundaries. We understand that this will have to be done by the best fit of OAs to wards, which, while not perfect, is what we had to do ourselves with 2001 Census Key Statistics data, or have no ward data at all.

  From the consultation report on SAG, ONS consider that there will be no need to merge, or split more than 5% of OAs because of a change in population between the 2001 and 2011 Census. MCC took part in this consultation and for Manchester our view is that where there has been extensive land use change from industrial and commercial to residential and rapid development of dwellings, particularly in the city centre, and its concomitant population growth, some of our OAs will need to be redrawn or split. ONS have said that: "Findings from this consultation—and particularly the areas which users have identified as troublesome"; will be used for further research and so we expect that to include Manchester.


How accurate and useful are the mid-year population estimates for England and Wales, including information available for local authorities and Strategic Health Authorities?

  The MYE is very important to LAs, as it has both type 1 and type 2 uses (see question 1 above). However, as a LA, we cannot be sure how accurate the MYE is. We have no reason to doubt the accuracy at national level. At LA and Primary Care Trust level, there is more room for doubt. The age cohort based methodology is good standard practice and the births and deaths data is robust. The areas of doubt arise with the way students are treated and migration, but all methodologies will have problems.

  Consideration also needs to be given to the time lag between the publication of these statistics and their use, in particular for revenue allocation purposes. The RSG settlement for 2008-11 will utilise population projections based on 2004 data and before, even though mid year estimates have been published for 2006. In MCC's case these projections are undercounting the population of Manchester and will therefore reduce the level of revenue support available to the City for MCC, its partners and other agencies that work for the benefit of the whole community.

How appropriate is the methodology by which, mid-year population estimates are reached?

  Students are such a large proportion of Manchester's population (12% in total, just under 70% of 19 year olds and just over 50% of 20 to 24 year olds in the 2001 Census) and they do not age, so that age cohorts do not apply to them. It is not clear from ONS, what part of the methodology for producing the MYE (if any) applies to keeping students constant and the SNPP does not deal with students at all. The MYE does not have access to student counts as Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) counts students by university, though they plan to count them at their term-time address in future and this data could be used to improve the way students are treated by the MYE. HESA data also needs to include data on nationality and address one year previously to identify overseas students. The methodology for counting students separately from the age cohort model needs to be reviewed and researched.

  Migration includes internal migration and international migration.

  Internal migration data is based on patient register and patient re-registration recorded in the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) and shows moves between Local Authorities, Government Regions in England and Wales only. It does not include the rest of the UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland). There are problems with the NHSCR data, as it is more robust for children and elderly people, as they are more likely to register with a GP. It is poor on young adults and men generally who are less likely to register with a GP, and it suffers a level of list "inflation" as a result. Also, as the data is rounded to the nearest 100 for age groups, small variations are not shown and sub-totals do not add up to totals.

  The Improving Migration and Population Statistics (IMPS) project developed a new methodology for international migration and applied it to the 2006 MYE and revised the 2002 to 2005 MYE and the 2004-Based SNPP. There is insufficient data to make a truly robust reliable count of LTIMs, everyone recognises this, including ONS. The total international migration count uses the International Passenger Survey (IPS), the Irish Republic Household Survey and the Home Office count of asylum seekers. Irish migrants are not covered in the IPS. MCC supports methods to improve the migrant count as outlined in the following section.

What are the most appropriate ways to ensure a common level of accuracy in mid-year population estimates for different areas and what steps should be taken to improve the accuracy in areas where population is hard to measure?

  The existing MYE methodology is still probably the best to provide a nationally consistent estimate, though some improvements could be made to the base data sets.

  HESA is mentioned in the section above.

  The NHSCR data is the only reliable source nationally for internal movement and anything that could be done to improve the quality of the data would be very useful. (See Section 4 below).

  The IMPS new methodology for counting LTIM, introduced this year by ONS, appears to be better than the previous methodology, and fairer. The revised MYE components of change resulted in Manchester both losing and gaining population, but gaining overall by the 2006 MYE. The new methodology means that more inward-LTIM are allocated to neighbouring areas than to Manchester, but more outward-LTIM are retained in Manchester. The means of counting Migrant and Visitor Switchers is improved, as is the method for counting outward-LTIMs by using a propensity to migrate model.

  LTIM will be improved further next year when the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) replaces the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS does not include residents in communal establishments, and because of its small sample size, it is only used below sub-regional level for London Boroughs. The IHS will have a much larger sample size, but it is also a household survey and some measure needs to be taken to include communal establishments residents.

  However, the best way of improving the LTIM and the STIM count would be to make more resources available to increase the sample size of the IPS. However, consideration should be given to replacing it by the equivalent of 100% compulsory passenger embarkation cards, in and out, at all points of entry and exit. This form of compulsory monitoring existed prior to the UK joining the EU and could be reinstated through the EU e.borders project. Parts of the project should be funded and brought forward from 2010 and implemented in 2008.

What is the right process for making revisions to mid-year population estimates so as to meet the needs of users?

  Through ONS continuous consultation, complete openness and clarity. ONS listening to LAs and explaining where users suggestions are capable, or incapable of being implemented, or require researching and the reasons why. Through meetings and workshops around the country, by email and website. Publicised as widely as possible using ONS existing email groups, Central and Local Government Information Partnership sub-groups, Local Government Association, Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association, etc.


What role can and should be played by survey data in the compilation of population statistics?

  The use of available data needs careful consideration. Increasingly, administrative data is being compiled which can assist in validating survey result and the outcome of the Census. Following the 2001 Census, analysis of administrative data showed that the result was questionable, but at the time, this quality assurance result was rejected. Without vigorous representation by the Council this would not have been acknowledged in subsequent studies conducted by ONS.

  The Census, IPS, LFS, and IHS are all surveys and without them it would not be possible to have any accurate population data. The Census is the most accurate survey because it attempts to cover 100% of the population, even though it is improbable that it has ever succeeded in the past or is ever likely to in the future, but smaller sample surveys are required for inter-Census years. The sample size depends on the resources available and all surveys that aid the national MYE and SNPP should have priority of resources.

  However no existing survey other than the Census includes persons living in communal establishments and for Manchester this means missing large numbers of students in halls of residence.

What role can and should be played by data from General Practitioners and other health service data in the compilation of population statistics?

  NHSCR developments phased in from 2005 to 2007 have, apart from changing the registers name from Central Registration System to Care Records Service, is a new electronic system of keeping patients records in one place to enable health workers to access a patients record on-line. However, according to NHS Connecting for Health, it will be "several years" before it is rolled out across England. The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) is an essential element of the NHS CRS. Every registered person in England will have an electronic record consisting of both demographic administrative data and medical data by 2010.

  However, it is the perennial problem with all administrative databases, it is not designed to collect data for any other purpose and the demographic data held is very basic: name, address, date of birth, date of death (where applicable), sex, and preferred language. Unfortunately it does not hold any data that is considered to be "sensitive" such as nationality, ethnic group, religion, or date of arrival in the UK, so it is unlikely to be of any help in counting international migrants and its uses are limited. Nevertheless, if resources are committed to cleaning and maintenance it could help make an improvement to the population count at LA and small area level, and to internal migration. This may be in time to inform and to quality assure the 2011 Census population.

What other data sources can and should be used in the compilation of population statistics?

  Other data sources have to be collected nationally and to the same standards. Most other data sources do not cover large enough sections of the population and because they are collected for other purposes, they have many problems associated with them that would need to be addressed before they could be used for counting the population. However, they could be used in a supporting, or quality assuring capacity when distributing population to LAs.

  The datasets with most potential and/ or require further research as to their utility are:

    1.  Council Tax dwellings from the Valuation Office, which could be used to give an estimated population using an occupancy ratio;

    2.  National Insurance Number allocations to overseas nationals, which could be used at the IMP New Geography sub-regional cluster level;

    3.  Schools Census of languages spoken in pupils' homes could be used as a proxy for nationality.

    4.  NHSCR Flag 4 added to the records of an international migrant when they first register with a GP needs further research as to how useful it is, as there appears to be some doubt about the reliability of data collection methods. However, it is not clear whether the changes to the system, currently being introduced, will include Flag 4.

    5.  Workers Registration Scheme is probably less useful than NINo, as it only applies to EU countries.

  Other LA administrative data is dependent on the amount of resources allocated to their collection by each LA, for example the Electoral Register (ER), and quality is, therefore, variable and patchy nationally. Methods used to keep the ER clean and up-to-date are very good in Manchester and enabled MCC to use the ER as evidence of an undercount in the 2001 Census. Some other LAs, who considered their populations were undercounted were not able to replicate MCC's evidence because their ERs were suffering from inflation as a result of the change to rolling registration.

  The introduction of the Coordinated On-line Record of Electors (CORE) system may resolve the problem of patchiness. The aims of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, in introducing CORE in 2005 was to achieve: "improvements in the integrity of electoral registers; more efficient access to registration data for those authorised; support modernisation of the voting process; improvements in the efficiency of the electoral administration process; and provide a mechanism by which reports can be provided and/or research conducted efficiently on electoral registration data, based on a national dataset". When CORE is finally implemented across the country it will provide another source of data to help with quality assuring Census data.

  Additionally, new legislative requirements will require more rigorous canvassing. This is an example of the need to keep the quality of administrative data under review and to anticipate improvements in that data in the run up to 2011.

  However, as with all administrative data sets, the ER is not designed to provide population data. Adults entitled to vote sometime choose not to register, or many young adults are highly mobile and miss annual registration processes. ERs exclude children aged under 18 and non-EU foreign nationals. Nevertheless, the addition of the nationality question this year, could add a little to our knowledge of the population.


How effectively has the Office for National Statistics cooperated with stakeholders with an interest in and information relating to population statistics and how can cooperation be improved by the Statistics Board and by its Executive Office?

  ONS has improved enormously since the 2001 Census undercount, but there is a concern that the speed with which they are able to establish the more practical cooperation in delivering an effective Census in 2011 is not in line with their stated intent of much greater involvement with LAs.

  Recently, however, we are aware of the development by ONS of a strategy for engagement with Local Government together with the specific initiative to develop a regional approach to engagement through regional lead Chief Executives along the lines of the approach adopted for Regional Returning Officers. This initiative has our wholehearted support because the methodology is proven and it is vital that Local Government takes an active role in supporting the conduct of the 2011 Census.

  More specific comments are:

    1.  ONS are conducting a wide range of consultation on the 2011 Census and the MYE, but how far they are prepared to take on the views of LAs is a moot point, which would be improved when ONS publish consultation comments, if they indicated their response and why.

    2.  Another issue is the slowness of ONS to respond to any request, or enquiry outside standard data requests and on occasion months can go by before the results of consultation are known, often after ONS have made their final decisions and often deadlines are not always met.

    3.  Another is ONS failure to disseminate widely enough to LAs, information on meetings and workshops that are important to LAs and therefore, can be easily missed.

  In global terms there needs to be a recognition throughout those at ONS charged with delivering an effective Census that LAs are not simply "user" stakeholders, but represent an essential resource which must be effectively harnessed to achieve the best outcome. This can be achieved without jeopardising ONS's delivery of independent results.

  The Statistics Board could act as "ombudsman", or "OffStat", a last resort independent complaints commission for data users. Also it could act as a standing quality assurance committee.

Additional — Please list any further matters which you feel should be raised in the inquiry

  The use of population data for the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Formula Spending Share, by which LAs are allocated Revenue Support Grants, should mean that ONS' first priority should be given to methods of collecting population data, by committing the resources required to get the best possible results. Both national and local government spending crucially depends on this data, no other organisation, statutory or voluntary, have the same dependency and, therefore, ONS should give utmost priority to our needs. Government must make the necessary resource available to ONS to ensure that the research required, the enlargement of sample sizes, and the improvement of administrative data collection methods can be implemented as quickly as possible. In particular, MCC would like to see resource committed to the IPS, e.borders and the production of the 2006-Based SNPP to be substituted for the revised 2004-Based SNPP in determining current RSG.

  MCC participated in ONS consultation on ONS' Statistical Work Programme for 2008-2012 earlier this year and commented on the need for reliable data for local geographies for policy work. MCC noted that in the coming years, all ONS products will be affected due to rapid changes in the global economy and population mobility. Correct measurements of economic and social changes need to be monitored and that is only possible with reliable statistics at a very local level, which are timely and regularly updated and can be linked geographically, such as by Lower Super Output Area. For example, recent in-migration has changed the socio-economic make-up of the city, particularly in some local areas, but local level information is very limited but necessary for local policy work. It is imperative to focus on improvements in the methods of distributing internal and external migration between local authorities in population estimates. Reliable information on population estimates is absolutely essential for policy development and to monitor progress, particularly at a local level.

December 2007

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