2. Performance


National print stories informed by ONS and its statistical outputs


Increase in staff engagement between 2019/20 and 2020/21


Hours of training delivered by Data Science Campus faculty team


Parliamentary questions and FOI requests answered


Online data collection responses received


ONS Website sessions in 2020/21 From June 2020, only sessions that accepted cookies are recorded


Households participating in COVID-19 Infection Survey (at time of reporting)


Members of public participating in COVID-19 Infection Survey (at time of reporting)


Number of visits made to houeholds in COVID-19 Infection Survey (at time of reporting)


The most searched for ONS statistics


Statistical releases from ONS in 2020/21


New analysts recruited to ONS

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Purposes and activity

Statutory framework

The UK Statistics Authority (the Authority) was established under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (the Act) and on 1 April 2008 formally assumed its powers. The Authority is an independent statutory body. It operates at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department and reports directly to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The work of the Authority is further defined under the secondary legislation made under the Act by the UK Parliament or devolved legislatures.

Statutory objective

The Authority has a statutory objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that ‘serve the public good’. The public good includes:

  • informing the public about social and economic matters
  • assisting in the development and evaluation of public policy
  • regulating quality and publicly challenging the misuse of statistics

Official statistics are for the benefit of society and the economy as a whole; not only in government policy making and the evaluation of government performance, but also informing the direction of economic and commercial activities. Statistics provide valuable data and evidence for analysts, researchers, public and voluntary bodies, enabling the public to hold to account all organisations that spend public money, and informing wider public debate. The Authority wants to see official statistics enabling sound policy, decisions and providing a firm evidence base for decision-making both inside and outside of government.

Statistics for the public good

On 16 July 2020, the Authority launched its strategy for the UK official statistics system for the five years 2020 to 2025. The strategy can be found in full on the Authority’s website: https://uksa.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/statistics-for-the-public-good/

The collective mission of our official statistics system is:

High quality data and analysis to inform the UK, improve lives and build the future.


The Statistics for the Public Good strategy covers the principal elements of the UK official statistics system for which the Authority has oversight. The Authority provides professional oversight of the Government Statistical Service (GSS), and has exclusive responsibility for its two executive arms, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

The GSS is a UK network, spread across a whole range of public bodies, including the devolved administrations and UK government departments which produces and analyses statistics. It includes professional statisticians, data scientists, geographers, researchers, economists, analysts, operational delivery staff, IT specialists and other supporting roles. The GSS is also a part of the cross-government Analysis Function, which has built a community of analysts of various professional backgrounds working to provide the evidence base for understanding the biggest challenges of the day. Both the Analysis Function and the GSS are also led by the National Statistician.

The ONS is the Authority’s statistical production function and is part of the GSS. Led by the National Statistician, the ONS is the UK’s internationally recognised National Statistical Institute and largest producer of official statistics. The ONS produces data, statistics and analysis on a range of key economic, social and demographic topics.

The OSR is the Authority’s independent statutory regulator. Led by the Director General for Regulation, OSR ensures that statistics are produced and disseminated in the public good and aims to increase public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics produced by governments. OSR also reports publicly on system-wide issues and on the way statistics are being used, celebrating when the standards are upheld and challenging publicly when they are not.

The legislation which established the UK Statistics Authority requires strict separation of the functions of production and regulation, where those involved in the production of statistics are not involved in the assessment of statistics against the Code. The Director General for Regulation reports directly to the Chair of the Authority and produces a separate annual performance report. More detail about OSR, including its approach, its governance and an assessment of its effectiveness is set out in the Annex to this document.

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The UKSA strategy

The new UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) strategy – Statistics for the Public Good – was published in July 2020. It sets the direction for the UK official statistics system for the next five years with its overarching mission to deliver:

High quality data and analysis to inform the UK, improve lives and build for the future:

High quality data and analysis to inform the UK, improve lives and build for the future

The strategy describes four core principles that underpin the mission statement – UKSA must be:

Radical in taking opportunities to innovate and collaborate, using data for the public good

Ambitious in setting out to answer the critical research questions the public needs the Government to answer, and informing the decisions that citizens, businesses and civil society take

Inclusive in its approach to workforce, talent management, and the design of data, statistics and analysis

Sustainable in delivering a unique service in a way which delivers value for money with lasting benefits and minimises impact on the environment, all through partnership and collaboration

The UKSA strategy is supported by business plans produced by each constituent part of the statistical system.

The ONS strategic business plan

The ONS strategic business plan also published in July 2020 sets out how ONS will contribute towards the delivery of the UKSA strategy over the coming years, including in response to the immediate challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It sets out how ONS will work in partnership with the GSS, data providers and the analytical and research community to deliver against the core strategic principles, and the resources that will be required to do so.

To deliver against the core principles and the plan, the ONS established six enabling change programmes that sit alongside ongoing ‘business as usual’ activities:

  • The Integrated Data Programme (subject to full business case approval) will deliver a platform that supports the integration of Government data, providing the capability to deliver analysis that cuts across organisational and societal boundaries and an enhanced approach to the dissemination of data and analysis.
  • The COVID-19 Response Programme including the COVID-19 Infection Survey will provide estimates of prevalence of COVID-19. Through this response we will demonstrate our ability to work with partners to accelerate our transformation of social and business surveys, including the capacity to rapidly deliver surveys where other data is unavailable.
  • The Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme will deliver the Census 2021, Census outputs in 2022, a revised system of population and migration statistics, and transformation of the ONS data collection activities.
  • The next phases of the Economic Statistics Transformation Programme will deliver enhancements to economic statistics to ensure that they are focused on priority measures.
  • Our workforce and workplace priorities will build a brilliant place to work, creating an inclusive and collaborative working environment based on flexibility and trust.
  • The Corporate Systems Improvement Programme will streamline back-office processes, drive efficiencies, and enable staff to deliver quality work effectively.

The strategic framework is further supported by delivery tiers which describe detailed activities. Model 1 below provides an overview including the highest-level delivery tiers – the multi-year strategic objectives and the in-year Directorate accountabilities. These high-level delivery tiers are in turn supported by the goals of all ONS colleagues.

Model 1: ONS Strategic Business Plan Taxonomy

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The table below provides a summary assessment of how we have performed against the strategic objective tier in 2020/21. The red, amber, green (RAG) rating against each strategic objective is based on an assessment of the Directorate accountabilities feeding into each objective. It is important to bear in mind that whilst the strategic objectives span the lifecycle of the strategy, the summary assessment charts our progress as at 31 March 2021. Performance against the objectives is monitored monthly through internal governance.

The performance analysis section on pages 19 to 50 of this report sets out a narrative assessment of progress made against the first year of our strategic business plan overall, aligned to the four core strategic principles.

The OSR Business Plan

The OSR also published its Business Plan in July 2020. This set out the independent role, governance, vision, mission and core objectives for OSR.

Performance against this business plan for 2020/21 is set out in the Annex to this document.

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