Item NumberItem DetailsItem Notes
5 mins
Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
Declarations of interest
Meeting of 15 December 2020
10 mins
Report from the Authority ChairOral report
Sir David Norgrove
20 mins
Report from the Chief ExecutiveSA(21)01
Prof. Sir Ian Diamond
10 mins
Report from the Director-General for RegulationSA(21)02
Ed Humpherson
5 mins
Report from Committee Chair
• Audit and Risk Assurance Committee
Oral report
Nora Nanayakkara
20 mins
Statistical Quality SA(21)03
Jonathan Athow
30 mins
Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme SA(21)04
Iain Bell
Nicola Tyson-Payne
10 mins
10 mins
15 mins
COVID-19 Infection Survey and Surveillance Studies SA(21)05
Emma Rourke
Iain Bell
15 mins
Statistics in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement SA(21)06
Will Laffan
15 mins
Strategy update SA(21)07
Nick Bateson
Douglas Cameron
15 mins
Strategic Risks SA(21)08
Nick Bateson
10 mins
Any Other Business

Next meeting: 28 January 2021, 09:15-12:45, via teleconference

Minutes – Thursday 15 December 2020


  • Sir David Norgrove (Chair)
  • Sian Jones (Deputy Chair)
  • Sam Beckett
  • Helen Boaden
  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond
  • Richard Dobbs
  • Professor David Hand
  • Professor Jonathan Haskel
  • Ed Humpherson
  • Nora Nanayakkara
  • Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter
  • Professor Anne Trefethen

Also in attendance:

  • Jonathan Athow
  • Nick Bateson
  • Iain Bell
  • Owen Brace
  • Robert Bumpstead
  • Douglas Cameron (Secretariat)
  • Sally-Ann Jones (Secretariat)
  • Alison Pritchard
  • Emma Rourke (for item 8)
  • Nicola Tyson-Payne (for item 9)
  • Amy Williams (Secretariat)


  • None

1. Apologies

  1. There were no apologies

2. Declarations of interest

  1. Mr Dobbs had noted a conflict of interest regarding the COVID-19 Infection Survey agenda item in advance of the meeting.

3. Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings

  1. The minutes of the previous meeting held on 26 November 2020 were agreed, subject to a minor amendment.

4. Report from the Authority Chair

  1. Non-executive directors had met prior to the They had discussed the communication of COVID-19 data.
  2. The Chair reported on his recent activity since the Board last met:
    1. alongside Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Sir David had visited the Department for Work and Pensions to present the strategy, Statistics for the Public Good;
    2. he had met the Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee with Ed Humpherson regarding COVID-19 data;
    3. he had recorded a training podcast with Sam Beckett for HM Treasury;
    4. he had met members of the CIS team and Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter regarding the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) incidence model;
    5. on 10 December he had attended Regulation Committee; and
    6. at the invitation of the Chair of the Committee of Standards in Public Life, he had met with the Chairs of a number of independent bodies, including the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and the Electoral Commission.
  3. Board members discussed the impact of the recent Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence report, ‘Addressing the Challenges of Measuring the Modern Economy,’ which highlighted the challenges associated with the communication of statistics.

5.Report from the Chief Executive [SA(20)77]

  1. Sir Ian provided the Board with an overview of activity and issues for November, highlighting;
    1. that the range of faster economic indicators continued to be developed to provide insight into the UK economy to inform decision making;
    2. the continued delivery of the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) and it’s development, in particular in relation to the vaccine Results from the Schools Infection Survey had been published and the surveillance work for universities was ongoing;
    3. the engagement by ONS and the Government Statistical Service with the Cabinet Office regarding the data flows needed beyond the pandemic; and the People Survey results for ONS and the Authority, which had the highest response rate for the organisation at 85 per cent since the survey had been Staff engagement had increased overall from 63 per cent in 2019 to 71 per cent in 2020. This was the highest level of engagement on record.
  2. The Board noted the report and commended the ONS communications team, which provided a high level of response to press queries, enabling statistical experts from across the organisation to speak directly with the media.

6. Report from the Director General for Regulation [SA(20)78]

  1. Ed Humpherson provided an update on regulation activity since the last meeting, and highlighted the progress made on OSR’s review of approaches to developing statistical models designed for awarding 2020 exam results. The aim was to publish the review in the New Year.
  2. The work on OSR’s draft guidance for statistical producers on collecting and processing data on sex and gender had also
  3. The Board heard that the People Survey results for OSR had also improved with an increase in staff engagement. Learning and development would be a focus for OSR in the coming months.

7. Report from the Chair of the Regulation Committee

  1. Professor Anne Trefethen reported on the work of the Regulation Committee, which had met on 10 December 2020.
  2. Committee members had considered OSR’s work programme and priorities for the coming year and the budget for 2021/22 in the context of the Spending Review.
  3. The Committee had also considered OSR’s review of approaches to developing statistical models designed for awarding 2020 exam results. The Committee commended the work.

8. COVID-19 Infection Survey and Surveillance Studies

  1. Emma Rourke and Iain Bell provided an oral update on the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) programme, highlighting the continued delivery and high impact of the CIS.
  2. The Board heard that the well-developed incident management procedures in place for the Census programme had been applied to the CIS. It was noted that ONS would continue to work with the Science Media Centre.
  3. As noted already the results from the first phase of the Schools Infection Survey had been published. A dashboard on COVID-19 latest insights had also been published on the ONS website on 11 December, with further ongoing content development underway. ONS continued positive engagement with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England, including on the Code of Practice.
  4. Board members discussed the recent media coverage of the CIS and agreed the benefits of being proactive.

9. Census and Data Collection transformation Programme

  1. Iain Bell and Nicola Tyson-Payne provided an oral update on the Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme, highlighting that the delivery of a Census in March 2021 remained on course.
  2. The Board heard that the digital build and testing was on track. The media campaign had been approved by the Programme Board with the television adverts for both England and Wales filmed and at the editing stage. The schools campaign in both primary and secondary schools was progressing well. The community engagement teams were impacting positively at a local level. The final COVID-19 Readiness Assessment on 1 December had confirmed confidence to proceed. It was noted that risk mitigation activities were in place to mitigate the remaining challenges.
  3. With regard to wider transformation, business statistics transformation would onboard three surveys to the online platform in the first quarter of 2021. Progress was being made regarding the acquisition of administrative data, including Council Tax and DWP data.
  4. The Board noted the update and commended the progress made.

10. Strategic Business Plan update [SA(20)79]

  1. Nick Bateson introduced a paper which provided an update on progress in delivery of the business plan at 30 November 2020.
  2. As reported to the Board in November the revised executive governance framework would underpin the organisation’s approach to prioritisation in the context of the Spending Review. The approach to the review of enabling functions was in the process of being finalised.
  3. The Board would remain engaged in the business planning and reprioritisation exercise.

11. Any other business

  1. The Authority Board would meet next on 28 January 2021 by videoconference.