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STATISTICS COMMISSION QUESTIONS WESTMINSTER CENSUS RESULTS

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The Statistics Commission today published The 2001 Census in Westminster: Interim report which reviews the issues, ...
The Statistics Commission today published The 2001 Census in Westminster: Interim report which reviews the issues, evidence and research into the 2001 Population Census results in Westminster. The report questions the level of confidence that can be placed in the 2001 Census results in Westminster and calls for a 2006 count in 'very hard to count' areas.

In his foreword, chairman David Rhind states: '... evidence we have examined on the use of One Number Census methodology in 2001 indicates that, when the initial enumeration misses as much of the resident population as it did in Westminster, even sophisticated estimation techniques may not entirely compensate for the initial absence of reliable data. In simple terms, there is too much uncertainty about the final results in the most 'hard to count' areas.

'...The Office for National Statistics did not have enough reliable information available to provide a confident estimate in this case. We believe that the problems of estimation were compounded by the fact that the concept of 'usually resident population' is particularly difficult to measure in the centre of one of the world's major cities.'

The report makes recommendations, not just for the ONS, but for central and local government. In particular, a 2006 population count should be pursued, at least for the areas that proved the hardest to count in the 2001 Census. In practice this is likely to mean some areas of inner London. Other recommendations of the report are:

*ONS should revisit the Westminster population estimates

*The quality of migration data should be addressed with urgency

*A national address register should be a priority for government

*ONS should do more to explain their methods

*Government should address its data requirements more systematically

*Other measures of population should be developed as alternatives to 'usually resident' population

NOTES

The report is available in pdf format on the commission's website.

1.The Statistics Commission was set up in June 2000 to advise on the quality, quality assurance and priority setting for National Statistics, and on the procedures designed to deliver statistical integrity, to help ensure National Statistics are trustworthy and responsive to public needs. It is independent both of ministers and of the producers of National Statistics.

2.The 2001 Census estimated the population of Westminster at 181,286. Westminster City Council has argued that this figure is substantially too low and has presented various evidence to support its case. The Statistics Commission has undertaken a review of the issues, the evidence and the research undertaken by other parties.

3.This is an interim report. Set out below are the commission's initial conclusions and recommendations. We will publish a final report once we have considered the results of further research currently being undertaken under the joint sponsorship of Westminster City Council and the ONS.

4.Summary of Conclusions:

*The 2001 Census was conducted according to the best methodology available for a conventional Census; but the method failed to cope adequately with the most extreme circumstances.

*There is greater uncertainty about the Westminster results than is reflected in the published confidence intervals.

*Some of the judgements made in advance of the Census about dealing with 'hard to count' areas are open to question.

*A more multi-lateral approach to population estimates is needed in future.

5.Summary of Recommendations:

*ONS should revisit the Westminster population estimates.

*A 2006 population count should be pursued, at least for the areas that proved most difficult to count in the 2001 Census. In practice this is likely to mean some areas of inner London.

*The quality of migration data should be addressed with urgency.

*A national address register should be a priority for government.

*ONS should do more to explain their methods.

*Government should address its data requirements more systematically.

*Other measures of population should be developed as alternatives to 'usually resident' population.

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