National Statistician’s Foreword
When launched last year, the new UK Statistics Authority Strategy (UKSA) strategy, Statistics for the Public Good, set out the need for high quality data to inform the UK, improve lives and build for the future. As set out in the strategy the data revolution continues at pace and there is a big prize for the statistical system, the Civil Service and the UK – if statisticians and analysts have access to the best evidence and can communicate effectively, helping to inform the country while reducing the potential for misrepresentation.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a lead role to play in this revolution. It benefits from the statutory independence of the UK Statistics Authority, supported by the Code of Practice for Statistics, key ethical principles and its ability of convene experts and analytical resources. The ONS also produces key reference statistics that show how the country is changing. We are responsible for key aspects of the Digital Economy Act, which provides access to data in support of its remit from across the UK. The ONS also has an important role in ensuring that the country’s evidence base is inclusive and reflective of the full characteristics of the UK.
Our previous business plan spanned the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic through until March 2021. Over this time, the organisation has changed dramatically – with a significant increase in demand for its statistics and analysis; expansion of its remit through its response to COVID-19 – including COVID-19 surveillance data, analysis on non-pharmaceutical interventions, behavioural analysis of society and businesses and the economic impacts of the pandemic; and a major focus on understanding the economic and social impact of EU Exit. This has all been delivered while the ONS has been adapting its operations as a result of the pandemic; during preparations for the 2021 Census in March 2021, which has delivered a response rate in excess of all planned targets, and the development of the Integrated Data Programme business case which articulates the ONS’s role in working with the UK Government and across the Devolved Administrations to improve management of and access to data.
Statistics for the Public Good has been a significant motivating force during this period. At its heart is a call to action; for all parts of the statistical service to contribute to the Strategy’s successful delivery and have an effective plan to do so. As we deliver against the strategy over the coming year, we will focus on key activities such as Census Outputs, the Integrated Data Programme, the development of the Ambitious, Radical and Inclusive Economic Statistics Programme as well as the Brilliant, Aligned and Sustainable Enabling (BASE) Review to assess the overall effectiveness of the organisation.
COVID-19 is likely to drive the governments analytical and statistical work for a significant period. The UK also faces economic and social challenges outside of the pandemic, such as net-zero, levelling up economic chances across the country, social mobility, an ageing population, the future of work, healthy living, human capital and the UK’s place in a changing world. These remain at least as significant now as they were before the crisis.
This Strategic Business Plan sets out how the ONS will lead the response to these challenges in line with the four pillars of Radical, Ambitious, Sustainable and Inclusive set out in the UKSA strategy. The key milestones for the delivery of the plan in 2021/22 are set out in the key milestones timeline on the next page.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond – National Statistician UK Statistics Authority