MPs issue census warning
MPs have warned Government plans to scrap the 10-yearly national census and find cheaper ways of collecting population data could prove ‘a costly mistake’.
A report issued today by the Science and Technology Committee says ministers might be frustrated in their stated aim of exploring less expensive alternatives to the census - last conducted in 2011 at a cost of £480m.
Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, has instructed officials to develop a population survey capable of providing ‘better information, more frequently and cheaper’.
Government statisticians, the Office for National Statistics, are currently working on a designs for a replacement to the population survey which has taken place at 10 year intervals since 1841. Recommendations are set to be published in 2014, ahead of the next census in 2021.
But MPs reported although there are many other social science surveys which seem to overlap with the census, these themselves are reliant on census data for validation. ‘This dependence would appear to be due to the fact that there is no other survey that can approach the breadth of the census,’ the report states.
Additionally, the Committee said a number of other key qualities of the census could not be replaced by other means, including a snapshot of the whole country at a moment in time allowing historic and regional comparisons to be made.
Chair of the science and technology Committee, Andrew Miller said the census ‘is incredibly valuable to social researchers, charities and the public sector and a move to cancel the census on financial grounds may prove to be a costly mistake’.
No harm in trying. There is also a massive quantity of demographic data collected by the public and private sector. This government does not have a good track record in thinking things through carefully though. Therefore it is essential any changes proposed are subject to professional scrutiny and rigorous consultation.Patrick Newman, ex local government, Stevenage, Added: Friday, 21 September 2012 03:42 PM
I am quite sure that the ONS did not supply the information that a population census has taken place each ten years since 1841 - I am sure that they will know that they started back in 1801. It is just that the data was limited and that, in any case, before the 1841 none of the data was retained. I agree with the committee, except that the means of carrying out the census might become even more accessible on-line by the next census - but quality checks will still demand staff!John Orchard, Added: Friday, 21 September 2012 03:20 PM
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