Resources and organisation

Planning and financial management

Our budgetary envelope for financial year 2020/21 was established through Spending Review 2019 (SR19). This fiscal event whilst originally planned as a multi-year financial settlement ultimately resulted in a restricted one-year exercise – with budgets based on 2019/20 levels. The Office for Statistics Regulation’s (OSR’s) budget forms part of the Authority’s wider accounts and whilst it is not disclosed separately in this report, defined parameters are applied in internal reporting.

Financial outcome

Total Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) for resource expenditure increased from £308.0m in 2019/20 to £458.9m in 2020/21. This figure is net of income and includes ring-fenced resource expenditure (depreciation). The increase reflects an uplift in funding received as we continued preparations for Census Day on 21 March 2021 and reflects additional in-year funding received and expenditure in relation to the Integrated Data Programme.

Taking the position gross of income receipts the expenditure figures increase to £338.3m in 2019/20 and £867.1m in 2020/21 respectively. It is important to make the distinction this year given the significant expansion of activity associated with the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS). This survey was funded through income received from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Income as a result of CIS increased from £30.3m in 2019/20 to £408.2m
in 2020/21. As stated, this increase is attributable to income received from DHSC.

Our Capital expenditure during the year increased to £12.5m from £6.8m in 2019/20. The capital expenditure is made up of £10.5m investment in development of assets and £2.0m of expenditure classified as capital expenditure under the European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA10). The latter is not classified as capital expenditure under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Financial management

We have continued to improve our internal business processes, raising financial awareness, providing expert advice and guidance and reporting key financial information through 2020/21. Our income and expenditure have increased significantly as a result of the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) and wider studies, Census 2021 and the Integrated Data Programme. The scale of the financial management of third-party contracts, reporting expenditure to other government departments and support for ONS business cases is of particular note within the period.

We have successfully managed our financial control totals for the year – which given the increased scale and complexity is a notable achievement. We have likewise complied with all HM Treasury expenditure control approvals processes, submitted a further Spending Review (SR2020) response and managed the standard annual fiscal events within the required timescales. Given the nature of our funding sources and operations in 20/21 particularly in relation to the pandemic – we have needed to assist other government department colleagues in navigating their own internal governance, providing financial information and reporting expenditure including variance analysis.

There were no specific efficiency targets set by the organisation or included within the HM Treasury budgetary settlement for financial year 2020/21. However, we have operated within core budgets that were frozen at 2019/20 levels in the 2019 Spending Review with the organisation having absorbed the impacts of cost inflation incurred during the year. We have been able to re-purpose cost savings associated with decreased travel during the pandemic to meet increased costs associated with the pandemic – increased analysis associated with the UK response; increased cleaning and other safety measures across our estate; increased requirement for office equipment and IT to support working at home – without the need to call on central government emergency funding.

Our key strategic programmes have delivered their planned objectives during the year significantly under budget. We have delivered all planned activity under the Census Data Collection Transformation Programme with a net £31.9m saving against the budget for 2020/21. This achievement is made even more remarkable by virtue of the increased costs the programme has faced in keeping our significant field force of more than 20,000 (at its peak) safe as they have undertaken their duties. The COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) has been delivered as planned with a saving of circa £103m against the original funding envelope. We have also finalised the Economic Statistics Transformation Programme during the year – delivering 94% of the planned benefits.

Spending Review 2020 (SR20) similarly resulted in a one-year settlement for financial year 2021/22 based on budgets agreed for 2020/21. Again, no specific efficiency targets were set out as part of the settlement. However, and as set out previously in this document we are in the process of developing a longer-term efficiency framework and targets, identifying areas where we can achieve sustained cost savings in preparation for Spending Review 2021 (SR21).

People capability

The Authority launched its five-year strategic plan in August 2020. Our People Plan is built and aligned to this and states that inclusion, adaptive leadership and continuous learning are key elements for the future of the organisation. The plan underpins our approach to entry talent, development of our employees (with a strong focus on those who may face barriers to promotion) and leadership development. This Plan recognises the importance of ensuring everyone that works with us is given access to the appropriate development and building skills capability to be the best they can be. We want the Authority to be an inclusive and brilliant place to work.

The Authority is committed to the development of the professional skills and capabilities of all its people, which it supports through a blended learning approach. It is important that individuals can develop a lasting and fulfilling career through the Authority, supporting both attraction and retention of high calibre employees. We are working towards building career pathways in all our professions that will help individuals to understand what they need to develop and help them access that development.

To develop and maintain an inclusive workforce, the Inclusion and Diversity plan was launched in 2020. To support this plan, the Learning Academy has developed workshops on topics such as improving working relationships, being inclusive while working remotely and interventions in the leadership space such as Women in Leadership, Ethnic Minorities in Leadership and mutual mentoring.

The Authority’s approach to developing adaptive leaders, who understand the external environment, plan ahead, can flex and adjust, engender trust and inspire each other is through the adoption of an ambitious leadership programme. We are building and strengthening the leadership skills across the Authority through a range of learning interventions from Future & Senior Leaders Schemes; Leadership Development Pathways and New to Managing People in ONS. We continue to strengthen our approach to Talent Management with talent and career development boards held from SCS to Grade 7. Succession planning has been a key priority in 20/21.

The Authority continues to support the government’s apprenticeship initiatives by identifying roles within the organisation that can be filled by an apprentice and for AO to EO roles are taking an “apprentice first” approach.

The Authority adopts a continuous learning approach, encouraging personal growth and allowing colleagues to harness each other’s professional expertise. Working collaboratively across government we are building the skills of our professional staff by providing pathways for learning to support their continuous development.

Through our Learning Academy we provide learning and development opportunities that are created through learning needs analysis and a longer-term alignment with the strategic workforce plan to ensure employees’ skills remain current and relevant.

In 2020 we have seen how important analytical skills are to the government and as an organisation we have provided learning to upskill our own analysts and those across government. This remains a key initiative as we go into 2021.

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