NEWS8 April 2011

Stats Authority calls for re-think of Citizenship Survey cuts

Government UK

UK— The watchdog body that oversees the UK government’s statistical output is calling on the Department of Communities and Local Government to reconsider its decision to axe the annual Citizenship Survey.

In a review of the decision, the Statistics Authority says that “insufficient account has been taken of the consequences of discontinuing the survey” in relation both to the government’s own statistical needs and that of other bodies that rely on the survey data.

Authority chairman Sir Michael Scholar has written to communities secretary Eric Pickles (pictured) to urge him to convene a meeting between the National Statistician, Jil Matheson, and statisticians within his own department so they can examine options and present new costed proposals for either retaining the survey in some form or pursuing alternative means of sourcing comparable data.

The decision to end the Citizenship Survey met with plenty of opposition, including Matheson’s, fearing that its loss would set back work in areas such as equality measurement, measuring well-being and the pursuit of the ‘Big Society’ agenda. There were also complaints that it would remove a key source of information on perceptions of public services, with the Place Survey having already been axed.

But despite these concerns the department went ahead with the decision saying the results are “not of sufficient importance to users to allow the survey to continue” given the £4m annual running costs and the need to cut departmental expenditure.

The last wave of the Citizenship Survey ended in March. It was established in 2001 and involved face-to-face interviews with nearly 17,000 adults in England and Wales each year, collecting their views on community cohesion, racial and religious discrimination, identity, values, civic engagement and volunteering and charitable giving.