Government statisticans lose 60,000 people in latest ONS gaffe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The census of Britain's population missed about 60,000 people, mainly in Manchester and Central London, government statisticians revealed yesterday.

The census of Britain's population missed about 60,000 people, mainly in Manchester and Central London, government statisticians revealed yesterday.

The largest revision was for the City of Westminster in the capital, which saw its population revised up by 17,500 or almost 10 per cent.

Manchester was not far behind, with an upward revision of 6.7 per cent or 26,200 out of a city of almost 400,000 people.

Kit Malthouse, the leader of Westminster City Council, said an error of 10 per cent was "disastrous" as decisions on resources for police, health and education services were based on the Census.

"For 18 months, the ONS was in complete denial and whatever we did they dismissed out of hand," he said. "Finally, we have managed to drag them kicking and screaming to the right conclusion."

He said he would be writing to the Chancellor, urging him to give the Statistics Commission statutory powers to compel the ONS to make changes.

Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We are grateful to the ONS for taking our concerns seriously and for acting on the findings. Any further impact on the city's financial position, given the changes in government grant introduced last year, will be known once revised estimates are published for all authorities later in the year."

The Office for National Statistics said the revision amounted to only 0.1 per cent of the total population of 52.38 million. John Pullinger, an executive director at the ONS, said the Census had still performed a good job. "Our increasingly complex and fast-changing society presents major challenges to measuring population change. These studies reinforce earlier findings that the 2001 Census did very well to measure the population in all but the most exceptional circumstances," he said.

The 13 other areas that underwent revision were Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Hartlepool, Kingston upon Hull, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland, Wirral, and the London boroughs of Southwark and Wandsworth.

The figure is based on work conducted in 15 local authority areas where the number of people who returned their forms for the 2001 Census was considered low for a variety of reasons, such as there being a transient population.

Mr Pullinger said the lessons learnt would be fed into the planning and development of the 2011 Census.

But it is the latest in a run of revisions to economic data that are used by the Bank of England when setting interest rates. The ONS admitted last week it had over-estimated occupational pension payments by £53bn over eight years and doubled its estimate of the output of the NHS.

Comments