|Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings|
Declarations of interest
|Meeting of 27 June 2023|
|Report from the Authority Chair||SA(23)44|
Sir Robert Chote
|Report from the Chief Executive||SA(23)45|
Prof. Sir Ian Diamond
|Report from the Director-General for Regulation||SA(23)46|
|Report from Committee Chair|
• Regulation Committee
|Excess Mortality Review||SA(23)47|
|Integrated Data Service||SA(23)49|
|Strategy Mid-term Review||SA(23)50|
|Board Effectiveness Review||SA(23)51|
|Any other business|
Next meeting: 28 September 2023, Cardiff
UK Statistics Authority
- Sir Robert Chote (Chair)
- Dr Jacob Abboud
- Professor Sir John Aston
- Professor Sir Ian Diamond
- Ed Humpherson
- Sian Jones
- Alison Pritchard
- Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter
- Penny Young
Also in attendance
- Owen Abbott (for item 8)
- Robert Bumpstead
- Holly Baldwin (shadowing)
- Philippa Bonay (for item 9)
- Sally Jones (Secretariat)
- Sarah Moore
- Emma Rourke (for item 8)
- Ruth Studley (for item 8)
- Tom Taylor
- Will Marks (for item 11)
- Jason Yaxley (for item 10)
- Professor Dame Carol Propper
- Nora Nanayakkara
- Apologies were noted from Professor Dame Carol Propper and Nora Nanayakkara.
2. Declarations of Interest
- There were no new declarations of interest.
3. Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
- The minutes of the previous meeting held on 29 June were agreed.
4. Report from the Authority Chair [SA(23)44]
- Non-Executive Directors had met prior to the Board meeting. They had discussed the senior level structure of the organisation, ahead of a further discussion scheduled in September.
- On 24 July Sir Robert Chote and Professor Sir Ian Diamond had attended a meeting with Simon Case, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, to discuss the breadth and delivery of work by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Topics discussed included the review of public sector productivity, progress of delivery of the Integrated Data Service programme and the ongoing consultation regarding ONS’ plans for the transformation of population and migration statistics. The implications of the ONS funding model in such areas as public health monitoring was also discussed.
- Sir Robert had delivered a speech at the Local Government Association conference on 5 July, which included a question and answer session covering a range of issues including the consultation on population and migration statistics.
- Sir Robert informed the meeting that he had agreed to join a conference committee for an event being led by Better Statistics Community Interest Company (CIC) in September. The outcome would inform the ongoing review of the Authority by Professor Denise Lievesley.
5. Report from the Chief Executive [SA(23)45]
- Sir Ian provided the Board with an overview of activity and issues since the last meeting, highlighting the following:
- as part of the review of the Authority Prof. Lievesley continued a programme of stakeholder engagement, which included attendance at Sir Ian’s senior leadership team meeting, the Analysis Function Board meeting and at the International Statistics Institute’s World Statistics Congress;
- completion of the work on business planning, with Sir Ian and the senior leadership team concluding prioritisation decisions ensuring statistical quality remained central to delivery of an agreed set of outputs within budget for this financial year. There were some areas of work that would be discontinued. Directors General were in the process of finalising the underpinning operational plan;
- Sir Ian had attended a workshop facilitated by Megan Cooper, Deputy Director Finance and Planning to discuss non-delivery of a small number of targets for the financial year 2022/23. It was noted that in some cases targets had been very ambitious and stretching and only narrowly missed and others were due to a reliance on delivery by third parties;
- the work by ONS to lead a cross government Public Sector Service Productivity Review with confirmation of funding by HM Treasury;
- an enquiry by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) regarding future COVID-19 and respiratory infection public health monitoring. The COVID-19 and Respiratory Infections Survey, which had formally closed on 30 June, had allowed ONS to develop an infrastructure in-house to support future surveillance as needed, subject to the appropriate level of funding;
- the launch on 5 July of ONS’s UK Measures of National Well-being dashboard;
- Sir Ian had met the Secretary of State for Education covering plans for migration statistics and future work on the analysis of skills in the IDS; and
- a launch event at the Manchester office with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, as speaker highlighting the engagement with ONS Local.
- Board members discussed the update and commended the work on business planning, particularly the collegiate approach by Sir Ian and the senior leadership team to stop or pause specific areas of work to ensure ONS maintained delivery and quality. Decisions had been informed by user insight. Members also welcomed the new ONS National Well-being dashboard.
6. Report from the Director General for Regulation [SA(23)46]
- Ed Humpherson provided an update on regulation activity, highlighting the launch of a number of publications by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). On 6 July as part of OSR’s programme of enhanced scrutiny of economic statistics, OSR published the first output on ONS Producer Price Inflation Statistics. On 12 July a report was published on Data sharing and Linkage for the Public Good.
- Board members commended OSR on the Data Sharing report noting the clarity of the conclusion and concise set of actionable recommendations.
- Ed Humpherson had also attended the recent International Statistics Institute’s World Statistics Congress noting that it had focussed on data ethics and misinformation with the UK statistical system being world leading and referred to throughout the event as a source of expertise and practical experience.
7. Report from the Chair of the Regulation Committee
- The Chair reported on the work of the Regulation Committee which had last met on 13 July.
- The Committee had considered:
- the progress of work by National Records Scotland to meet the requirements of OSR’s assessment report published in April of the 2022 Census in Scotland. OSR had reported good progress by NRS of their compliance with the Code of Practice. The decision on National Statistics designation would be considered by the Committee in September;
- a draft Assessment Report on Accident and Emergency Activity Statistics in Scotland, produced by Public Health Scotland;
- progress of the National Statistics Designation Review with agreement on the preferred designs of badges for official statistics and official statistics in development, which would be included in the public consultation in the Code of Practice Stocktake scheduled in the autumn;
- progress of OSR’s ongoing review of census gender identity data;
- resourcing work in preparation for any potential surge in activity;
- a draft report of the Annual Review of Authority Casework 2022/23; and
- the annual review of effectiveness of the Committee.
- Members welcomed the update and discussed the work by the International Steering Group, set up by National Records of Scotland in May 2022, providing external assurance and expert advice on the Scotland Census 2022.
8. Excess Mortality Review [SA(23)47]
- Ruth Studley provided the Board with an update on progress in developing a single cross-government method for assessing excess mortality.
- The Board heard that the ONS led an expert working group to make a recommendation to the National Statistician on a single methodology for assessing excess mortality. The expert working group comprised of members from across the Government Statistical Service. The group had considered a long list of viable methods for defining the baseline.
- It was noted that feedback from the Methodological Assurance Review panel, commissioned to provide an independent review of the approach adopted, had overall been positive with formal recommendations to follow.
- Board members discussed the update. The following points were considered in discussion:
- the process in reaching the shortlisted methods;
- concern regarding the broader issue of the impact of registration delays compared to using deaths by occurrence on mortality statistics in England and Wales due the disparity in the coronary processes across the UK. This issue continued to be a focus for Sir Ian and Emma Rourke who had recently met the Chief Coroner of England and Wales; and
- on completion of the work the need for effective communications to users setting out clearly the strengths and limitations of the different models and the recommended approach.
- It was noted that subject to feedback from the National Statistician, further developments would continue throughout August focussing on a number of areas and further discussions with coroners across the UK to help in reporting and minimise registration delays across the four nations. An implementation plan would be agreed in September.
9. People Update [SA(23)48]
- Philippa Bonay provided the Authority Board with an update on the work across the organisation to mitigate the Authority’s strategic people risk and support delivery of the strategy, Statistics for the Public Good. An update was also provided on the Authority’s approach to handling employee concerns.
- The Board heard that the ONS were among winners of the annual Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards in the UK’s top 50 best places to work. The organisation’s Disability Confident Leader status had been renewed until 2026, and the ONS had been shortlisted for the Chartered Institute of Personal Development People Management Awards 2023 in the category of Best Flexible Working Initiative.
- A sustainable approach to estates across all sites continued with the opening of the central Manchester office in January 2023. The Manchester office and the Darlington Economic campus provided the opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration attracting critical skillsets for the organisation.
- Trade Union relations across the Civil Service had improved following the package of measures by the Cabinet Office in June 2023. Departments were enabled to make a £1500 one off, non-consolidated payment which was implemented quickly across the organisation.
- The People Plan focussed in three areas: strategic resourcing; inclusion and diversity; and skills. It was noted that in recent months the strategic resourcing approach had focussed on aligning financial budgets with the organisations’ people resources. Resourcing control processes had been reviewed and deployment of colleagues had been increased where there was an appropriate skills match to priority work. Progress had been made across all organisational inclusion and diversity targets.
- Board members discussed the update and highlighted the need for clarity, following discussion by the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee in June, of the extent to which the Executive was concerned about the budgetary challenge for this financial year; the need for a significant headcount reduction; and the ability of the workforce planning approach to deal with the issue. Members discussed to what extent the planned audit on resource management scheduled for discussion at September Audit and Risk Assurance Committee would provide the assurance needed.
- Sir Ian and Tom Taylor acknowledged the scale of the challenge and highlighted a number of points. As with any National Statistical Institute following a census collection there was a need for a reduction in headcount and budget. In addition, as reported to the Board previously in the financial year 2022/23, the organisation had not received £10 million at the supplementary estimate point as expected, and for this financial year the organisation would have to absorb inflationary pressure.
- In order to address these issues Sir Ian and Tom Taylor alongside the senior leadership team had undertaken a rigorous business planning exercise, including the introduction of resourcing controls. It was clarified that the aim had not been to achieve the entire headcount reduction exclusively through a reduction in contractors, (albeit the organisation had reduced its contingent labour through the controls in place), deployment, redeployment, efficiency savings, business survey transformation and automation were part of a range of levers being implemented to address the issue. Sir Ian informed the Board that he was confident that the budget would be met and while the headcount challenge was a concern Sir Ian remained confident but not complacent.
- The Board noted the update and welcomed the award received by the organisation.
10. Integrated Data Service [SA(23)49]
- Alison Pritchard and Jason Yaxley provided the Authority Board with an update on the Integrated Data Programme, responsible for delivery of the IDS.
- Jason Yaxley reported that meeting the requirements of the Research Accreditation Panel (RAP) to achieve Digital Economy Act Accreditation and increasing the number of use cases and accredited users was a key focus for the programme. The next Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) Gateway Review was scheduled at the beginning of October, aligning with further Business Case discussions with HM Treasury.
- Alison Pritchard highlighted that as the application for interim Digital Economy Act (DEA) accreditation had failed in June the programme would not resubmit an application for DEA accreditation unless all controls were ‘green’.
- Board members discussed the update. The following points were considered in discussion:
- that it was critical that the programme took the time needed to ensure all controls were ‘green’ before resubmitting an application for DEA accreditation;
- delivery confidence of the Programme Senior Responsible Owner that all controls would be met to resubmit the application for DEA accreditation in September, and if not feasible it was noted that the next opportunity would be at the December RAP meeting;
- development of the data pipeline with new datasets expected in the coming months; and
- the programme’s hope that following a meeting on 10 July by the Departmental Directors of Analysis up to four new use case in areas where linked data could enhance public policy had been identified with the potential for progress in these areas through the IDS.
- The Board would continue to remain engaged as the work progressed.
11. Strategy Mid-term Review [SA(23)50]
- Will Marks provided the Authority Board with an update on progress towards the mid-term review of the Authority strategy, Statistics for the Public Good.
- The mid-term review included the evaluation of what ambitious, inclusive and sustainable meant in 2023, and looked ahead at the remaining and emerging challenges for the rest of the period. The conclusion of the work was a proposed focus on key themes including: a greater focus on the effective communication of statistics; improving awareness of statistics; improving statistical literacy in partnership with others; the emerging role of both automation and artificial intelligence within the statistical and analytical system.
- The Board welcomed the update and endorsed the areas of focus. It was agreed that further information would be provided for the Board setting out the underpinning activities across the areas of focus including large language models such as ChatGPT. The Board agreed there was no need to delay the strategy review given the ongoing Cabinet Office review of the Authority, and its findings now be disseminated.
12. Board Effectiveness Review [SA(23)51]
- Sally Jones introduced a paper which covered the results of the Authority Board’s self review of effectiveness highlighting the key issues raised and proposed improvements.
- The Board is invited to review its effectiveness on an annual basis to identify where it is performing well and were improvement might be made. The analysis highlighted sustained improvement over the last year. The Chair continued to provide an open and supportive culture to allow and inclusive environment for discussion. The Board had considered strategic issues with papers focussing on delivery of the strategy, Statistics for the Public Good including progress of delivery of the Integrated Data Service Programme and the transformation of economic statistics.
- Members discussed the results and highlighted the need for clarity of papers setting out the challenges and areas of concern for the Executive. There was a general consensus that the Board met with the correct frequency. It was agreed that the format of the agenda and frequency of regular updates to the Board on different topics would be considered. It was noted that hybrid meetings offered the right level of flexibility.
13. Any other business
- Sir Ian congratulated Professor Sir John Aston on the recommendation by the Royal Statistical Society Council as choice for the next RSS president in January 2025.
- The next meeting of the UK Statistics Authority Board will be on 28 September.
The papers that informed this board meeting are attached as a PDF document for transparency. If you would like an accessible version of the attached papers, please contact us at email@example.com