NEWS8 February 2021

Mayor of London flags census concerns

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, and Georgia Gould, chair of London Councils, have written to national statistician Ian Diamond to raise concerns over the forthcoming census and request additional resources in London.

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Ahead of the 2021 census in England and Wales on 21st March, the mayor and London Councils underlined the data collection challenges facing London in particular.

Existing data collection barriers to the census in the capital, including language issues and internal migration, will be “exacerbated” by Covid-19 this year, making it more challenging to access “hard-to-reach groups”, according to Khan and Gould.

“The usual word-of-mouth communications routes will not be available and public advertising will be less effective as people stay indoors. The census simply won’t be a high priority for voluntary sector groups and public bodies that would normally support the completion process,” they said in the letter.

They asked the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to deploy additional resources, including engaging with foreign-born groups that do not have census community advisors.

They have also asked the ONS to outline how it will support those who are “digitally excluded” during the census process, which is set to take place predominantly online for the first time.

Khan and Gould also raised the question of London’s population being affected due to the pandemic, arguing there is a risk of a “mismatch” between population data recorded in this census compared with a count in “normal circumstances”.

They requested that the ONS extends the census data collection period and “exercises caution” in updating population estimates to avoid London population data being understated. 

Population estimates based on census data are used to inform the funding received by local government.

Last year, Scotland postponed its decennial census, originally due to take place on the same day next month as the England and Wales survey, citing ongoing disruption due to Covid-19. It is the first time since 1941 that a census has been postponed in the UK.