This is our annual report and accounts for the year 2021/22, and the first I have the pleasure to introduce as Chair of the UK Statistics Authority. In the weeks since my appointment on 1 June I have toured our sites and met with colleagues, learning about what has undoubtably been a fascinating year for official data and analysis.
The achievements of the Authority in the past year are many, and I have been hugely excited to learn more about them. Once again, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been playing a key role informing the fight against COVID-19 as the Government navigated its way out of pandemic restrictions and through the emergence of the Omicron variant. The dedication and pace with which colleagues across the statistical system provided insights that shaped government decision-making and the course of the pandemic has been of great credit to the Authority. It also is proof that Radical and Ambitious, two of our key organisational principles, are not just something we say but something we act on in everything we do. Working by these principles secured us substantial funding to continue the Coronavirus Infection Survey, for example, and has cemented our reputation in the UK and abroad as an innovative and capable institution that delivers data for the public good. Our National Statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, will provide more detail on that next.
The Authority has also taken its Inclusive principle to heart, as we now see the fruits of last year’s digital-first Census. In the Spring we were able to share some early data with government to help plan for the arrival of refugees from Ukraine, and at the end of June we released our much-anticipated population estimates.
This is a proud moment for all involved as we see Census findings put to work to inform and serve communities around the country. For almost 200 years the Census has provided the most comprehensive and accurate portrait
of the population and we now need to look radically but carefully at how best to achieve that goal in the future.
Across the Authority there are many examples of impressive work, such as the Office for Statistics Regulation’s (OSR) efforts to promote data transparency and unpack the lessons of the pandemic for health statistics; the hugely promising Integrated Data Service launching its private beta stage; the signing of a new Concordat for Statistics with central and devolved governments; and much more that I am eager to support.
As I step into the role of Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir David Norgrove, for leaving the organisation in great shape. Under his careful watch, official statistics have become more important and better trusted than ever before. It is a huge honour to be taking over from him as Chair and to begin to evaluate our progress against the strategy he and our senior leadership team set two years ago, Statistics for the Public Good.
I thank Sir David for his years of service, and I also want to repeat his thanks to everyone working in the ONS, OSR and the Government Statistical Service (GSS) for their hard work and achievements over the last 12 months, as well as to our partners, stakeholders and the millions of participants in our surveys and research for their contributions. It is a real privilege to see how it all comes together, and I look forward to the year ahead.
Sir Robert Chote
Chair, UK Statistics Authority
Chief Executive’s report
I am proud to present the UK Statistics Authority’s Annual Report and Accounts for the financial year ending in March 2022. Not only is this an important document to meet our statutory obligations; providing transparency and accountability for the use of our public resources, but it also provides me with an opportunity to reflect on all the incredible achievements of the organisation over the past 12 months.
We have made progress with our radical, ambitious, inclusive and sustainable strategy across our areas of our delivery.
The ONS concluded the operational phase of the 2021 Census, achieving a 97% response rate, with 89% responding online. This exceeded all expectations during a national lockdown. The Census gives us a brilliant, detailed snapshot of the nation and how we were living during the pandemic. Census statistics underpin vital decisions on the allocation of public services and resources. The results from Census 2021 provide a key bridge from the past to the future as we work to deliver more frequent, relevant and timely statistics to better understand population change in local areas this year and beyond.
The Ambitious, Radical and Inclusive Economic Statistics Programme (ARIES) and Economic Statistics have continued to deliver improvements to the core national accounts, trade and investment statistics along with our suite of faster indicators, and has delivered significant improvements to GDP, including the implementation of double deflation. Experimental model-based estimates of regional GDP have improved regional economic data and made economic growth changes available five months earlier.
Our COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) has continued to provide a gold standard in evidence to inform the Government’s response to the pandemic. The scope and nature of this evidence produced through CIS flexed in response to need, including the publication of two estimates a week during the emergence of the Omicron variant in December and January. Associated data on behavioural responses, workforce absences and impact on household finances and living standards have also been delivered.
Additionally, we used new data and methods to incorporate the Test, Trace and Vaccinations Programme into measures of healthcare output in the National Accounts, and stood up an Over 50s Lifestyle Survey in just 11 days after cross government collaboration to design, test and launch the survey of 20,000 50-70 year-olds.
Our survey transformation work continues at pace, with the Labour Force Survey taking an “on-line” first approach supported by other modes of collection (e.g. telephone and face to face interviews). The survey will be flexible so it can be changed quickly to remain relevant and responsive to key priorities. The increased sample and new design will enable a reliable monthly estimate for the first time and provide robust and timely estimates for key characteristics of the Labour Market such as disability and ethnicity.
Underlying all of this remains our ongoing commitment to build resource sustainability and efficiency of the ONS and broader statistical system, with a particular focus on automation, improvements in business surveys and improving the efficiency of government’s usage of data.
At the same time, we have made significant investment in our data infrastructure, launching the alpha build of the Integrated Data Programme Analysis Platform, which was quickly followed by the launch of an initial Private Beta in October 2021; The Initial Public Beta (IPB) release of the Integrated Data Service is scheduled for mid-July 2022. This release builds on the capabilities offered by the New Private Beta release, on the 30th April and will bring further enhancements to the technology, security and wider service capability to be extended to analysts outside of Government.
Within the Data Science Campus, we delivered a series of Masterclasses for Ministers, Select Committees, Permanent Secretary and Senior Leaders across government strengthening data literacy, launched the cross-government Data Science Graduate Programme, and developed real time indicators at the local level from CCTV traffic camera images which was awarded the Geography in Government overall and innovation awards. These regularly published statistics are the first to be produced from machine learning techniques applied to image data. Adding to this diverse portfolio, the Data Science Campus have been working with the ONS’s Prices and Methodology areas to respond quickly and inclusively to the cost-of-living squeeze as experienced by the least well off.
The Data Science Campus remains a critical component of our organisational capability to act at pace allowing us to explore, embed and enable new approaches to statistical production and analysis. We have and will continue to adapt our statistics in this way to ensure our outputs represent the ever-changing landscape of the UK. To do that, the Inclusive Data Taskforce launched a consultation and subsequently published a detailed implementation plan responding to the 46 specific recommendations following extensive engagement and collaboration.
We also showcased a prototype UK Climate Change Statistics Portal at the COP26 UN Climate Change summit in Glasgow alongside the Met Office, providing a dashboard of indicators, three ‘explainer’ articles and access to detailed data. We completed a coordinated programme of 10 climate related statistical and analytical outputs around COP26 covering emissions in 2020, energy efficiency of homes, business actions, local authority emissions and woodland cover, low emission vehicles and UK natural capital estimates.
Statistics for the Public Good makes clear that to maximise its impact, the statistical system must increase opportunities for partnership with the rest of government, academia and the private sector. With this in mind, we have expanded our collaborative partnerships including the launch of a strategic partnership with the Alan Turing Institute, worked with the Department for Education on their Unit for Future Skills, and delivered research through the Economic Statistics Centre Of Excellence (ESCOE) partnership.
Through engagement with the centre of government, we and the work of the Policy Liaison Unit are better able to reflect the data needs of policy makers. For instance, at the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ONS provided crucial insights on Ukrainian diaspora in the UK and real-time economic impacts of sanctions. We were also able to launch the UK Humanitarian Response Insight Survey, to rapidly inform the UK’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent evacuation of individuals fleeing Ukraine.
A new National Statistician’s Committee for Advice on Standards for Economic Statistics (NSCASE) was established to provide statistical governance outside the European framework, and we published the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) annual report, making good progress on reporting indicators, closing challenging data gaps, doubling the amount of headline data reported and increasing disaggregation.
The National Statistician’s Expert User Advisory Committee met for the first time on 28 March to discuss cross-cutting issues and providing strategic advice about how the UK statistical system can best maximise effective engagement to enable the UK Statistics Authority and the wider system to use data in a radical, ambitious, inclusive and sustainable way.
We convened, in November 2021, a summit on public engagement with a range of groups working on administrative data use, most notably in health, and have a programme to improve both public engagement and decision making in data use.
Together, these achievements in our planned work also enable us to have the flexibility in our resources to produce analysis in response to urgent data needs, such as:
- supporting the statistical and data requirements for the Union
- building an analysis of the upcoming statistical requirements for the levelling up agenda
- supply chain disruption, publishing analysis on HGV drivers and providing the Cabinet Office with the latest data and information impacts on availability of essential goods to inform decisions
- developing an evidence pack that synthesises cross government data on Violence against Women and Girls
- working closely with the Office for Veteran Affairs to improve veteran suicide statistics, data collection and analysis
- we also published the GSS subnational data strategy which demonstrates our ambition and commitment to delivering granular and timely subnational statistics that support targeted decision making
We have continued to adapt the operations of the organisation to ensure our business is fit for the future. We made a commitment as part of our Spending Review settlement to identify 10% of efficiency from our core funding over the course of the period. In the past year we have concluded a review of the ONS’s enabling functions, professionalising the corporate centre which will generate millions of pounds of efficiency through the Spending Review. The ONS has established an efficiency framework to deliver the remaining suite of efficiencies.
In embracing the Civil Service’s hybrid working approach, we have launched a project to ‘Evolve the Workplace’ to modernise our estate, giving colleagues a contemporary space to collaborate as we gradually return to the office. In addition to improving our existing spaces we have set up a new Economic Campus in Darlington, giving us a presence in the North East of England, and we have confirmed the move of our London office from Drummond Gate to Marsham Street, as part of the wider Civil Service aim to consolidate its office estate in London as part of the Levelling Up agenda.
It is a privilege to highlight some of the incredible work across the ONS and the wider UK Statistical Authority, supporting our collective mission to deliver statistics for the public good.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond
UK Statistics Authority