The Neighbourhood Statistics Service managed by the Office for National Statistics will transform the availability of statistics and other information for thousands of local areas across the country.
For the first time it provides a local focus for a wide range of official information. It is a joint initiative involving central and local government and the wider public service for their benefit and for the benefit of other non-governmental bodies and the general public.
At its heart this free service will supply information needed for the government's national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. It stems from the Social Exclusion Unit's report of Policy Action Team 18, 'Better Information', which identified the lack of information for local areas.
In a letter to chief executives of UK local authorities, police authorities and housing associations, national statistician Len Cook said:
'This marks the first major milestone in the development of the Neighbourhood Statistics Service.
'On 15 January, the prime minister launched the government's action plan 'A New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal: National Strategy Action Plan'. A key commitment was the establishment of Neighbourhood Statistics. The Neighbourhood Statistics Service is an important step in putting together the information that will underpin that action plan. It is recognised that in order to measure the impact of policies and monitor their effectiveness, we need a wider range of information to be made available for small areas.
'These web pages bring together for the first time the available information for individual wards across the country, as well as information at the district level. It will be of relevance to those involved in the new Local Strategic Partnerships, to Neighbourhood Managers, businesses, community organisations and others. This is
just the start of an ambitious long-term project, which aims to transform the accessibility and quality of information available for small areas across the country. It is being developed in partnership between central and local government, and the wider public sector.
'As the service is developed over the coming years, we will be looking to build new partnerships with colleagues across the public sector, both as users of the service, and as possible suppliers of information. I look forward to working in partnership with you over the period ahead as we develop the Service together'.
The action plan committed ONS to providing a ward level data set as the first stage of developing the Neighbourhood Statistics Service on its website. Not only has the ONS achieved this, but has completed it well in advance of the target date of April 2001.
The list of organisations and people who will benefit is extensive: from government, health authorities and local community groups through to businesses, analysts and the private citizen. In addition to the new Local Strategic Partnerships and Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder projects mentioned above, the information will be particularly useful for others such as the Connexions service and Learning and Skills Councils.
The web pages will provide vital information on over 11,000 wards in the United Kingdom. Around 150 different pieces of information are provided for each ward in England, and smaller subsets of information for wards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The information will help find local solutions to local problems as well as aid monitoring of social policy at the national level. There will be major benefits, particularly at local level where many local authorities have been frustrated in their planning by a lack of information from central sources. It will be easier to assess relative need - pinpointing those local areas with great need and
comparing with others.
This is only the initial phase of the Service. Throughout 2001 and 2002 additional datasets will be added and the web pages will become more developed with a range of powerful analytical tools which will help turn the raw data into relevant and understandable information
A key part of the plans for the Service will be to encourage and enable organisations that collect and hold administrative information to provide statistics for small areas for incorporation into the service.
The information already on the website includes statistics based on administrative records from the department of social security and the registrar general.
In 2003 a large amount of data from the Census (taking place on 29 April 2001) will become available at a level 20-times more detailed than wards.
Absolute priority has been given to protecting the confidentiality of personal information.
Further information on the plans for developing the Neighbourhood Statistics Service are provided in the note at Appendix 1.
The new Neighbourhood Statistics Service is fronted by Magnus the magnifying glass. You will be seeing a lot more of Magnus as he guides people in the use of this website with the local focus.
The web pages will contain information on the following domains, many of which have information broken down into futher sub categories:
- Family Credit claimants by age and gender, March 1999
- Income Support claimants by age and age of dependants August 1998
Education, Skills and Training
- University admissions by place of residence, all ages and aged
under 2011997 and 1998
- Primary school pupils, numbers by Key Stage 2 scores
- Attendance Allowance claimants, by Higher and Lower rate,
- Disability Living Allowance claimants, by Higher and Lower rate,
- Jobseekers' Allowance claimants, by age and age of dependants,
- Incapacity Benefit claimants, by age and rate (Highe; or Lower),
- Severe Disablement Allowance claimants, by age and gender,
- VAT registered enterprises by industry group, March 2000
- VAT registered enterprises by employment sizeband, March 2000
- Employee jobs, by gender, September 1998
- Claimant count - Oxford University ward level estimates
Indices of Deprivation
- Indices of Deprivation 2000 for wards in England - rank and score
for six domains and overall rank
- Indices of Deprivation 2000 for electoral divisions in Wales
- rank and score for six domains and overall rank
Population and Vital Statistics
- Oxford University population estimates for wards in England, mid
- Vital statistics, 1998 - Births and Deaths by gender
NEIGHBOURHOOD STATISTICS SERVICE
The Office for National Statistics is leading the development of a revolutionary new Internet service - the Neighbourhood Statistics Service. Its central aim will be to meet the information needs of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal and other area based policies in both central and local government.
This is one of the largest and most far-reaching initiatives in the information field in the UK. The service will be developed in a series of phases. Close consultation with local and central government, the devolved administrations and the wider public service will guide the work - which promises to transform the availability of statistical information for thousands of areas across the country.
Public services are seeking local solutions for local issues - whether they concern combating social deprivation or crime, providing housing, caring for the elderly or ensuring that the needs of school children or minority groups are met. But finding local solutions requires local information.
According to the report of Policy Action Team 18 on Better Information published in April 2000, 'The absence of information about neighbourhoods has produced a series of failings at national, local and community level', '..policies can easily be misdesigned or mistargeted' and 'important trends have been missed by national and
local government. Too often problems simply go unnoticed until they reach crisis point'
In its full implementation, the Neighbourhood Statistics Service will offer users ready access to a vast range of social and economic aggregate data on a consistent small-area geography and supported by a range of powerful analytical tools with which to turn the raw data into relevant and comprehensible information.
Where exact geographic locations are not confidential, for example the location of post offices or other services, the aim will be to include precise point references via an underlying geographic information system (GIS). A parallel service is to be developed in Scotland to provide additional information to complement the UK-wide service being provided by ONS.
It will take a number of years to reach the goal of full implementation. The service will be built steadily over that period in a series of phases, set out in more detail below.
The initial databases will contain statistics at the ward (electoral division) level where this is available. Later developments will extend the range of data, taking in the 2001 Census data in 2003, and introducing geographical units much smaller than wards. The detail and flexibility of analysis available will be enhanced by the inclusion of 'modelled' data using the latest techniques to provide estimates, of average household income for example, at the small-area
This new service will be developed in partnership with the many organisations that already provide statistical information. It will be guided by the needs of users. Its range and quality will depend on the commitment and practical support of central government, the devolved administrations, local government and all other public
services. Progress will be monitored and widely reported through consultative arrangements.
- Local communities - who want to draw attention to an issue or to
look at ways their local services might be improved
- Local authorities- which act as community leaders and which
manage many of the key public services at the county or district
level; for example education, social services and social housing
- government administrations and departments - some of which
manage local services directly and many of which are responsible
for socio-economic policies
- health authorities and other bodies concerned with the
determinants of public health
- police and fire authorities - which have their special areas of
responsibility as well as working closely with local government on
- other agencies and voluntary bodies - which provide services to
communities or groups within them
- professionals and commentators - who analyse social data to
inform or assess policy businesses - which want to know about
potential demands for commercial services of various kinds
- the citizen - who wants to see and understand what is happening
in his or her neighboumood, influence policy or gauge progress
against the objectives and goals to which services work
Some examples of the many ways in which the service will support good government by assisting neighboumood renewal - to facilitate 'a better understanding of local problems and effective targeting of solutions' - are as follows:
- deciding to act - local data can provide the evidence that
particular communities face problems. Local authorities already
draw together local data for planning purposes but are frustrated
by lack of information from central sources.
- planning what to do - providing the information needed to work
out an effective approach - for example by analysing the way
social conditions influence school performance. More generally,
using the data to understand why social and economic circumstances
vary across the country in the way they do.
- assessing relative need - pinpointing those local areas that
have the greatest need and assessing how other areas compare - and
doing so in a way which everyone can see to be fair. Information
of this kind is vital for targeting and allocating the resources
of central and local government.
- analysing - providing the data needed for before-and-after
analysis at the local level, to monitor change and help assess the
impact of action taken, or identifying areas which meet specific
criteria for the purposes of social research or for piloting
govemment initiatives. monitoring progress - against the
objectives and goals that government and other agencies set.
Hundreds of public bodies throughout the UK already collect local information but this is not generally available to others. Under the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, a new focus on building up consistent databases of local information will be introduced into the existing arrangements. The service will be built up over several years. The key phases are expected to be:
1. Launch phase - February 2001 - an initial database from
existing sources, providing data down to ward level with some
analytical tools. This phase will also see a major drive to
explain and promote the service.
2. Incremental phase - through 2001 and into 2002 - additional
datasets added from existing sources over a period of months.
3. Enhancements phase - from 2002 - still mainly at ward level but
with a wide range of new estimates (building on small area
estimation techniques) and improved analytical tools.
4. GIS implementation phase - in 2002 - a geographic information
system will be incorporated and the first point-referenced data
(location of services and social/physical infrastructure) added.
5. Census launch phase - in 2003 - a large amount of new Census
data, and some other statistics, will be added at the Census
Output Area level (20 times more detailed than wards).
6. Full service phase - from 2003/2004 - further datasets added at
the Census geography, including specialised local ones, and the
point-referenced data extended as far as is consistent with
confidentiality. The service will be developed further in time to
allow users the maximum flexibility in the output geography.
The Neighbourhood Statistics Service will be managed centrally by the Office for National Statistics. Detailed policies on matters such as protecting the confidentiality of data on individuals, the criteria for inclusion of data, rules on updating and guidance for users will be developed in consultation with users and suppliers of data. The aim will be to balance the value of comprehensiveness against the hazards of including data of lesser quality or reliability.
Absolute priority will be given to protecting the confidentiality of personal information at all stages. Stringent procedures will be put in place to ensure that confidential information is not detectable from the statistics, either directly or through the comparison of data sources. The Office for National Statistics will guide the work under a formal code of practice, working closely with the Data
The Neighbourhood Statistics Service will offer some special services to help public bodies put their own data into a suitable format. These will provide a consistent way of estimating figures for the required small areas and will ensure that confidential information is not disclosed. These specialist tools will be of value in many other areas of analytical work as well:
- Geographic referencing tools - subject to the outcome of a major
consultation exercise on the best way to bring in a consistent
approach, computer software will be developed centrally which will
give a consistent geographic reference to any data relating to an
address, place or area. These references will not be affected by
postcode changes, address changes or boundary changes. This will
in turn allow information from many sources to be analysed on a
- Small area estimation tools - which will provide a consistent
way to calculate estimates for one set of areas from figures for a
different set, and so enable estimates to be made for smaller
areas than would otherwise be possible.
- Small area population estimates - which will provide the best
consistent estimates of the resident population in each of the
small areas used in the Neighbourhood Statistics Service. As well
as being valuable in their own right, these estimates will enable
users to standardise other figures and calculate rates and
- Disclosure control protocols - which will ensure that
information about individuals cannot be seen in, or deduced from,
the databases supporting the Neighbourhood Statistics Service.
Analytical package - which will assist users in handling the vast
amount of data available through the service.
Data development programme
The goal of consistent data for small geographical areas has implications for data management by public bodies. In some cases data systems are already able to provide the required level of detail. In others, estimation techniques will enable estimates to be drawn from existing sources.
The 2001 Census will fill many gaps. But there are still many cases where the processes by which statistics are extracted from administrative sources, or estimated from surveys, will need to be improved. The Office for National Statistics will work closely with all those involved in data collection to identify the least burdensome and most efficient ways of improving source material.