‘Statistics for the Public Good’ new mission for statistics over the next five years launched  

The UK Statistics Authority has unveiled “Statistics for the Public Good” – the new strategy for the UK statistical system following a period of dramatic change during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This strategy is accompanied by five-year business plans for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), which spell out a direction of travel for official statistics in this country, ensuring that robust data continues to inform the public.

The strategy recognises a need for ever more local, frequent, up to date, accessible, relevant and coherent information to help the public, businesses and civil society. The opportunity for the Government Statistical Service to link multiple sources of data to come to the best answer has been greatly enhanced through new legislation and technology. It was announced in the budget earlier this year that the ONS will take a lead role in developing a new government wide online platform that will link large amounts of existing public data in one place to help inform decision making.  This forms a crucial part of the work that this strategy lays out.

Many of the issues facing us today cross departmental and geographical boundaries and the responses to them are organised in a collaborative way. ‘Statistics for the Public Good’ sets out the Authority’s plan to build flexible and integrated analytical capabilities and data management tools to address national priorities to enable the statisticians to manage data and deliver analysis that cuts across organisational boundaries – enabling joined up government through joined up data.

It lays out key principles to underpin this work, both in production and regulation committing the country’s statistical system to being more radical and ambitious when looking for new projects and to reach beyond what’s gone before. With a focus on partnerships and better use of existing data, the strategy makes a commitment to producing inclusive statistics that reflect the experiences of everyone in our society, ensuring everyone counts and no one is forgotten.

It also commits statisticians to being more proactive in tackling misinformation by speaking out publicly to ensure political debates remain well informed. The plans lay out a set of priorities to stand up for the public’s right to access statistics and data that exhibit trustworthiness, quality and value. OSR will, by championing high standards, uphold public confidence in statistics that serve the public good. This signals a radical shift from traditional static, collect-and-count approaches to statistics.

This launch follows a period of unprecedented change, seeing the design and implementation of the national COVID-19 Infection Survey in a matter of days and transforming the way data is collected and assessed following the pandemic.

Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority said: “Since the pandemic started, the statistical system has adopted radically different ways of working. This has ensured we can provide the vital data needed to track the progress of the pandemic and asses its impact upon our society and economy. Faster, more relevant data from wider sources have supported critical decisions day after day. We want to capitalise upon these changes to further improve lives and guide the path to economic recovery.

“The past few months have shown what we’re capable of doing when there’s special pressure.  Now as we move we hope into more normal times we have to keep up the pace to bring together new sources of data to gain better understanding and improve lives.”

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s National Statistician and Head of the Government Statistical Service, said: “I am very proud of the vital contribution my colleagues have made to the country’s pandemic response. Our statistics have become a vital tool for tracking the impact of COVID-19 and providing robust evidence for decision makers.

“By taking the best of what we’ve learnt during this time, I want to ensure that public statistics continue to push boundaries, providing new evidence that gives us the full picture when it comes to making the decisions that matter the most.   During my time as National Statistician I’ve been impressed by the quality of work produced by our teams and I know that we can achieve more.”

Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation and Head of OSR said “Providing trustworthy information to the public is not a nice-to-have. It’s one of the core responsibilities of Government organisations. Our regulatory work over the next 5 years will support producers of statistics and data in informing the public. And we will champion the benefits to the public of getting access to the best possible data and statistics.”

This strategy builds upon the last “Better Statistics, Better Decisions” strategy which laid out its own suggested improvements for statistics – many of which have now been surpassed. It comes as the Office for National Statistics prepares itself for the next Census in 2021.

You can read the full strategy and business plans for ONS and OSR on the UK Statistics Authority website.

Changes to our website

The UK Statistics Authority has made some significant changes to our website, based on extensive research from a wide range of users and stakeholders.

All changes took effect at 1540 on Monday 13  July 2020.

 

Separating out the Office for Statistics Regulation and The Code of Practice.

Historically the UK Statistics Authority website is the single online home for all pages relating to the UK Statistics Authority, the Office for Statistics Regulation and the Code of Practice for Statistics.

As part of some improvements and restructuring to our website, three distinct microsites have been created:

  • UK Statistics Authority

uksa.statisticsauthority.gov.uk (Oversight of the whole statistical system and promote and safeguard the production of official statistics)

  • Office for Statistics Regulation

osr.statisticsauthority.gov.uk (The statutory independent regulator to ensure that statistics are produced and disseminated in the public good)

  • Code of Practice for Statistics

code.statisticsauthority.gov.uk (The Code of Practice provides producers of official statistics with the practices and principles for production of official statistics.)

 

Changes to our website

Users who have statisticsauthority.gov.uk bookmarked are encouraged to update their bookmark to one of the above microsites, depending on your area of interest.

All three sites remain part of statisticsauthority.gov.uk and the UK Statistics Authority remains in overall charge of data collection and cookies.

Please read our website privacy policy for more information.

 

Other improvements

We have sought to improve understanding of the different aspects of the UK Statistical System by creating a new simple navigational home page. We have also created a new navigational menu which sits at the very top of the three microsites to aide navigation.

Following feedback we have streamlined our committees’ page, making it easier to find and review agendas, minutes and other information about our board, sub-committees and advisory panels.

Due to the growing amount of correspondence we have archived all correspondence sent on or before 31 December 2017. No correspondence has been deleted, but older correspondence has been moved.

Next steps

We are creating a new page to bring together our work with parliaments which will go live by the end of July 2020.

Your views

As always, we are happy to hear your views on our website. You can email us or complete this feedback form.

If you regularly access a page which you can not find, please let us know and we will do our best to help you.

Appointment of two new Non-Executive Directors to the UK Statistics Authority Board

Richard Dobbs and Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter have have been appointed as non-executive board members of the UK Statistics Authority for a period of three years, commencing today (Wednesday 27 May 2020).

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Richard and David as non-executive members of the UK Statistics Authority Board. Richard brings to the Board strong insight into global economic trends, and David is one of our leading experts in the communication of statistics and risk particularly in relation to health. Both have been strong advocates for the power of data and evidence to help people. The Board and I are very much looking forward to working with both of our new members.”

Richard Dobbs said:

“I am delighted and honoured to be appointed to the Board at this challenging time. The Office for National Statistics is already providing us all with deep insights on the COVID-19 pandemic. As we emerge from the crisis the ONS and the UK Statistics Authority will play a pivotal role in helping policymakers, companies and citizens navigate the new normal.”

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically highlighted the importance of timely and trustworthy statistics, and I am so pleased that I am going to have the opportunity to help in the UK Statistics Authority’s vital work.”

 

 

Related links

Biography of Richard Dobbs

Biography of Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter

 

Further information

The UK Statistics Authority is an independent body operating at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

The Authority’s statutory objective is to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. It is also required to promote and safeguard the quality and comprehensiveness of official statistics and ensure good practice in relation to official statistics.

Consultation on the future of the Retail Prices Index

The UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury have today announced that they will be extending the time period for the current joint consultation on the future of the Retail Prices Index, in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

With businesses and individuals focused on mitigating the challenges that this public health and economic emergency has created, the UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury agree that they cannot currently conclude a meaningful consultation on this matter.

The new closing date for the consultation will be 21 August. We will continue to accept responses throughout the extended period. The Authority will resume proactive engagement, including events, as circumstances allow. A response to the consultation will now be published in Autumn 2020.

An exchange of letters between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority on this matter is available below.

Related Links:

Sir David Norgrove to Chancellor of the Exchequer (April 2020)

Chancellor of the Exchequer to Sir David Norgrove (April 2020)

Consultation on the Reform to Retail Prices Index (RPI) Methodology

Joint consultation on the future of the RPI launched by UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury

In March 2019, UK Statistics Authority recommended to the Chancellor that the shortcomings of the RPI be addressed by bringing the methods and data sources of CPIH into it.

Today The Authority and HM Treasury have launched a joint Consultation on the timing and method of bringing CPIH methods and data sources into the RPI.

HM Treasury will be consulting on the appropriate timing for the proposed changes to the RPI to take place while the UK Statistics Authority will consult on how to make its proposed methodological changes to the RPI in a way that follows best statistical practice.

The consultation will run from today – 11 March – until Wednesday 22 April.

Commenting, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove said:

“The role of the UK Statistics Authority is to promote and safeguard official statistics.

“I, my predecessors and successive National Statisticians have been clear that the RPI is not a good measure, at times significantly overestimating inflation and at other times underestimating it. However, the RPI is unique as we need consent from the Chancellor to make certain changes, such as the one we have proposed.

“We are seeking feedback from the widest range of users on our proposed method of bringing the methods and data sources of our most comprehensive inflation measure, CPIH, to the RPI.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The consultation page is available here

Today’s letter (11 March 2020) from Sir David Norgrove to Lord Forsyth is available here

The UK Statistics Authority’s previous statement on the future of the RPI, published in September, is available here

A previously published article, setting out the shortcomings of the Retail Prices Index is available here

The full recommendations from the UK Statistics Authority to the Chancellor can be found here

Party leaders reminded of their duty to use statistics accurately and fairly in the forthcoming election

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove has written to the leaders of political parties in the UK ahead of the forthcoming general election.

In his letter Sir David has asked that statistical sources should be clear and accessible to all, that any caveats or limitations in the statistics should be respected and that campaigns should not pick out single numbers that differ from the picture painted by the statistics as a whole.

Sir David Norgrove said:

“Statistics can be a powerful support for an argument, but misuse damages their integrity, causes confusion and undermines trust. It can also lead debate to focus too much on the statistics themselves, distracting from the issues at hand. This is particularly important during the intense public scrutiny of an election campaign, where misinformation can spread quickly.”

– ENDS –

 

Notes to Editors

  • Sir David Norgrove’s letter is published in full online here.
  • Sir David has written to the leaders of all political parties with more than one representative in at least one the four national parliaments and assemblies of the UK. A full list can be found through the above link.
  • The UK Statistics Authority is an independent body operating at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
  • The Authority’s statutory objective is to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. It is also required to promote and safeguard the quality and comprehensiveness of official statistics and ensure good practice in relation to official statistics.
  • Sir David Norgrove wrote to party leaders ahead of the 2017 general election.
  • The Authority’s full interventions policy can be read online here and a full set of correspondence from Sir David Norgrove can be found here.
  • Details of the Code of Practice for Statistics can be read online here.

UK Statistics Authority Safeguards Statistics

The UK Statistics Authority has today published its Annual Review of Casework.

Making public statements about the dissemination and use of statistics has been an important part of the Authority’s work since it began. In this work, the Authority is guided by its statutory objective to promote and safeguard official statistics.

The Office for Statistics Regulation investigates all cases reported to the Authority by members of the public, politicians, the media and third sector-organisations, as well as issues we identify ourselves.

This year’s annual review finds:

  • Although the number of cases investigated by the Authority has risen, there have been fewer cases in which we have identified a clear misuse of statistics;
  • Across some themes, including economic statistics, we are seeing fewer concerns raised about statistics production, suggesting improving trust in official data;
  • There continues to be concern about the production of health and social care statistics; and
  • Over the course of the year we have seen an emergence in concerns raised regarding education funding data.

Commenting on the publication of this annual review Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said:

“This year the public, politicians and the media all played their part in raising cases with the UK Statistics Authority about the use and dissemination of statistics. But what we have found – and this may surprise some – is that the blatant misuse of statistics among politicians and members of the media is really quite rare.

“Of course we are looking carefully at those instances in which concerns persist. Reflecting on our casework, as well as our wider knowledge, the UK Statistics Authority will continue to think carefully about how it can improve the UK’s evidence base, including in important areas such as health and social care, and education funding.”

Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation, added:

“Casework is an extremely important element of our daily regulatory business and this report highlights the key issues we have identified proactively and reactively to independently stand up for statistics as a public asset. The Office for Statistics Regulation remains dedicated to enhancing public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics as set out by the Code of Practice, celebrating when the standards are upheld and challenging publicly when they are not.”

 

See also:

Annual Review of Authority Casework, 2017 to 2018

UK Statistics Authority Statement on the future of the RPI

The Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices provided advice to the National Statistician on the composition of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in light of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report Measuring Inflation, published in January 2019.

Taking account of that advice, the then National Statistician concluded that the current position was unsatisfactory and put options for the future of the RPI to the UK Statistics Authority Board on 26 February 2019.

After receiving this advice, Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote on behalf of the Board to the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March 2019 with the following recommendations:

  • that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
  • in the interim, the shortcomings of the RPI should be addressed by bringing the methods of the CPIH into it.

Today the Chancellor has announced his intention to consult on whether to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI between 2025 and 2030, effectively aligning the measures. The UK Statistics Authority will consult on the method of making this change.

Speaking today, Sir David said:

“The role of the UK Statistics Authority is to promote and safeguard official statistics.

“We have been clear that the RPI is not a good measure, at times significantly overestimating inflation and at other times underestimating it, and have consistently urged all – in Government and the private sector – to stop using it. However, the RPI is unique as we need consent from the Chancellor to make certain changes, such as the one we have proposed.

“Although we regret that no change will occur before 2025, we welcome the Chancellor’s intention to consult on resolving current issues with the RPI.

“We continue to urge the Government and others to cease to use the RPI. It would be wrong for the Government to continue to use a measure of inflation which it itself accepts is flawed, where it has the opportunity to change.”


 

Notes to Editors

  1. Under Section 21 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, before making any change to the coverage or the basic calculation of the RPI, the UK Statistics Authority must consult the Bank of England. Where proposed changes to the RPI are deemed material and detrimental to relevant gilt holders by the Bank of England, changes cannot be made without the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  2. Under Section 21, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Governor of the Bank of England on 18 February and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March, proposing:
    1. that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
    2. in the interim, that shortcomings of the RPI be addressed, by bringing the methods of the CPIH into the index.
  3. His letters drew both on the formal advice of the UK’s National Statistician, and on the advice of the National Statistician’s Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices.
  4. The Bank of England responded on 4 March to confirm changes proposed were material and detrimental to holders of relevant gilts.
  5. Following the appointment of a new Chancellor, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP on 30 July 2019, highlighting the importance of the issue and the need to resolve at the earliest practical occasion.
  6. The Chancellor responded to the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals on 4 September 2019. In his response, the Chancellor announced his intention to consult on the timing of when to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI, effectively aligning the measures, to give users time to prepare for the many complex effects such a change will have.
  7. Sir David has responded to the Chancellor welcoming the intention to consult, while expressing regret that no change will occur before 2025.  He has also urged users to cease using the RPI.
  8. In 2030 the requirement for the Authority to consult the Chancellor before making changes to the coverage or calculation of the RPI falls away.
  9. While the current Authority Board cannot commit its successors, the statistical weaknesses of the RPI make it unlikely that the Authority would take a different view from our recommendations in 2030
  10. The Authority has also published its response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

 

 

Digital-first census will help shape public services

Plans for the digital first census in 2021 have been set out in a white paper published today.

Information gathered by the Office for National Statistics through the census will help shape public services and ensure they are targeted into communities and groups where they are needed, in 2021 and beyond.

And, for the first time, ONS will be drawing on additional sources of information to create the most comprehensive picture of today’s society.

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said:

“The census is the foundation for national and local policy, for planning and for targeting resources.

“The information gathered on the population, people’s characteristics, education, working life and health, enables public services and businesses to properly serve our communities.”

The next census is due to take place on 21 March 2021, subject to parliamentary approval. Recommendations were set out in the Help Shape our Future white paper published today.

National Statistician, John Pullinger, said:

“The Census is for everyone; it gives us all the opportunity to stand up and be counted in democratic debate and policy decisions.

“We have designed it with people at its heart and we consulted widely to ensure it meets the needs of society. Unlike previous Censuses, it will be digital first which will make it easier to complete electronically, with help available for those who need it.”

The Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP, said:

“The proposals for the 2021 Census will help decision-makers and citizens get comprehensive data on our society and provide an unparalleled snapshot of how people live and work in our modern society.

“The census is essential for informing policy, planning and funding decisions, across all national and local public services.”

With every census, consideration is given to new questions which should be added to provide information which is not available from elsewhere.

The 2021 Census will, for the first time, collect information on veterans of the UK Armed Forces. This enables monitoring of the Armed Forces covenant – the deal between the country and those who served it.

And it is proposed that there will also be a new voluntary question on sexual orientation for those aged 16 and over. In addition to the usual question on being male or female, there will also be a voluntary question on gender identity for those aged 16 and over.

ONS is transforming the way it collects, processes and shares data and the next census is part of a wider drive towards making more use of data already held and moving surveys online.

Previous censuses have been shown to deliver many times their cost in indirect benefits. Return on investment in census has been shown to be £5 for every £1 spent.

In line with previous censuses, ONS will hold a census rehearsal in October 2019 and is currently reviewing which local authority areas will be included.

 

Notes to Editors

For more information, see the white paper which has been laid today in Parliament.

Following the publication of the Census White Paper for England and Wales, a draft Order will be prepared in respect of the census in England and Wales to be laid before Parliament in autumn 2019. The draft Order must be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Following approval of Census Order, the Minister for Cabinet Office is expected to lay Census Regulations for England before Parliament in early 2020, which set out arrangements for conduct of census in England; including operational activities and field procedures.

 

For more information, please contact the ONS Media Relations Office:
+44 (0)845 604 1858 or +44 (0)203 684 5070

Progress Report on Income and Earnings Statistics

Monitoring Review Progress Report –

Coherence and Accessibility of Official Income and Earnings Statistics

Today, the UK Statistics Authority has published a Progress Report on its Review of the Coherence and Accessibility of Official Statistics on Income and Earnings. The Review was first published in February 2015, followed by an event in July 2015 to convene a range of stakeholders to consider how official statistics on income and earnings can better serve the public good in the future.

This Progress Report highlights work carried out by producers of statistics in response to recommendations made by the UK Statistics Authority. The Report finds that while there have been some positive developments, progress against recommendations has generally been limited or moderate. In particular, progress against those recommendations that require collaborative working within and between government departments has been slow. The Authority therefore considers that more collaborative progress is required. The Authority will be asking the Office for National Statistics, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs for a joint progress update in May 2016.

Ed Humpherson, the UK Statistics Authority’s Director General for Regulation, has also today written to John Pullinger, the National Statistician, to make him aware of this Progress Report, expressing concern that progress has been disappointingly slow, and to welcome his support in improving the coherence and accessibility of these statistics.

The Authority will publish another Progress Report in early summer 2016. Due to the continued importance of income and earnings statistics, the Authority’s Director General for Regulation will also be considering whether any of the statistics included in the Review’s scope are candidates for re-assessment under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as part of the 2016/17 Programme of Assessment.

For media enquiries about this Press Release please contact: +44 (0)7795 841 283