UK Statistics Authority insists on doing its job

A meeting of Learned Societies heard that the UK Statistics Authority had found that the government was breaking its own code of practice on consultation, and was not willing to inform the Authority of proposed changes to official statistics; The Authority is required by law to advise on the impact of changes in statistical production. The same meeting heard that government departments are doing their own thing when implementing cuts, some cutting outputs with minimal or no public consultaton, and others involving users in extensive reviews. Not all are sharing their plans with the head of the government’s statistical profession, the National Statistician. 

The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Michael Scholar expressed disappointment in a letter to Minister Francis Maude last October 2010 that the government was unwilling to allow the Authroity to advise on the impact of proposed changes to statistics, listing 17 examples where the statistics of one government department informed the work of others.

The UK Statistics Authority issued the first of its Statistical Expenditure reports, in which it investigates “any changes to departmental statistical work programmes where there are questions about whether user needs have been fully considered; where adequate consultation may not have been carried out; where the effects on other departments or other statistical series may not have been taken into account; or on the rationale underpinning the proposals more generally.”

The first Statistical Expenditure report is attached to a letter to Eric Pickles on 8th April 2011, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, which demands that the government responds to the needs expressed in consultation over the Citizenship Survey. The survey has been cut completely, with fieldwork ending on March 31st 2011, in spite of users’ clear identification of its importance in ‘providing  evidence on the Big Society, extremism, cohesion and integration, fairness in the criminal justice system, discrimination, the impact of immigration, volunteering, well-being, and many other issues’.