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Do we need another census?

10:43 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

An advertising campaign begins today to raise awareness of the latest census for England and Wales. Is it worth the money?

Millions of people will be asked about their education, jobs, health and ethnicity in the project which is expected to cost £482m and create 35,000 jobs.

Census director said the data collected was invaluable to allow local and central government, businesses and voluntary groups to plan their service provision, but campaign group Big Brother Watch says it is a "very intrusive" way of simply duplicating information already available.

Is a census necessary? Is it too intrusive? What information do you think is important? Are some questions too sensitive to ask? Have you taken part in a census?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Comments

Page 1 of 8

  • Comment number 1.

    It started last week - posters all over my GP practice.

  • Comment number 2.

    The uk can get all it wants from Facebook etc. The US do it that way.

    We are all on the electoral roll, well nearly, we all get tax bills, we all get utility bills. The information is already out there Mr Goverment Census man who is doubling his costs for the service this year as he is due a bonus probably.

    OK rant over. No we do not.

  • Comment number 3.

    The relationship between government and people is deeply damaged and the wounds are raw and bloody and have been festering now for decades. A census makes sense but the trust required to part with this information seems to be at its lowest ebb. So perhaps it is required but now is not the best time.

  • Comment number 4.

    The census is quite painless. Governments and commerce both need the results for long term planning of health needs, housing, schools, growth of the market etc. No country can actually do without it.

    The problem for the previous census will be worse in this one. Lots of people, like immigrants and black economy users do not want to be recorded and their details known, and can be very violent in their methods of refusing to be counted. An unexpected out come of both the Poll Tax and exploitation of immigrant labour.

  • Comment number 5.

    Stuff the census

  • Comment number 6.

    If the cencus was carried out by employees actually going door to door, counting the beds and assessing whether statements about how many residents was actually correct, then I might see the point of this. In fact, rather than employ new people, why not have the Borders Agency people go round. That way they can find all of the illegal immigrants and toss them out of the country, thereby actually doing their job. At the end of it all we'll know how peole live here, how many people we can accept as asylum seekers, economic migrants and repatriations, and we can start proactively keeping our borders controlled.

    As for all the other stuff, well it's all out there already, so we don't need it duplicated.

  • Comment number 7.

    An obscene and absurd waste of money. Again.

    I suppose spending this same amount of cash, and actually making the country a better and safer place to live requires too much effort these days, so a damn questionnaire will obviously solve everything. Cretins.

  • Comment number 8.

    They already have all this information, several times over. Why don't they spend the £482m on joining up the various departments so they don't have to keep asking us the same things over and over again?










  • Comment number 9.

    This is an expensive jobsworth exercise.

    Information technology has moved on, better information information is available from other sources.

    This should be the last to burden the taxpayer and enrich the public sector.

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course we need a census, how else are we going to find out what the population of our country is? Okay it won't be exact because of the number of people who think it is an infringement of their liberties(?), or because they are here illegally, but by and large it gives a good indication as to demographic trends, etc.
    Unlike John Mc, I know that a vast number of people are not on Facebook, have tax bills, or are present on the electoral roll, and in fact the US do not conduct their national census completely on-line.

    Had we all had ID cards then of course the government wouldn't have needed a census because they would already have the details of all the population, (they would also have known how many people were in the country to within 87%; at the moment they can only guage to within 58.7% accuracy thanks to the previous govt's lack of control).

    No doubt the pseudo-intlelligentsia are already deciding on ways to lie on the census returns. I seem to remember that the 2001 census had a lot of alien religions so it will be interesting to see how many Jedi there are this time.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with #4.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes we do need another census, but one that is detailed and up-to-date with modern way of life.

    For decades census' have not been anywhere near as detailed enough, for example, the 2001 census showed that 41million people in the UK are "christian" which believe is seriously inaccurate. I would bet it would be an even split between Christianity, other religions (yes maybe even jedi) and of No religion.

    When groups say allot of this information is already available, from where? Facebook? I'm there would be huge offence if the Government reviewed everyone's facebook page just to find out information on people without their permission or knowledge. Plus there's atleast 3million people who were even on the last census so where is their duplicate information going to come from?

    Demographics are important, and we must ensure when we conduct them, it's accurate and up-to-date with the current way of life..

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes we do need another census, but one that is detailed and up-to-date with modern way of life.

    For decades census' have not been anywhere near as detailed enough, for example, the 2001 census showed that 41million people in the UK are "christian" which believe is seriously inaccurate. I would bet it would be an even split between Christianity, other religions (yes maybe even jedi) and of No religion.

    When groups say allot of this information is already available, from where? Facebook? I'm there would be huge offence if the Government reviewed everyone's facebook page just to find out information on people without their permission or knowledge. Plus there's atleast 3million people who weren't even on the last census so where is their duplicate information going to come from?

    Demographics are important, and we must ensure when we conduct them, it's accurate and up-to-date with the current way of life..

  • Comment number 14.

    The money spent on this census would pay the salaries of over 3,200 junior nurses for the next ten years (assuming that they earn an average of £15,000 a year).

    Given the choice I'd rather have the extra nurses and do without the census.

  • Comment number 15.

    As the country has had a census since 1801, excluding the war years, it helps all goverments see which way the country is populated. It actually helps make important decisions.
    Now whether some questions appear to tread on personal feelings is always an agrument. In 1841 age was the problem +-5 years which got changed to actual age in 1851 by birth year.
    Relegion raised its head in 1861 "do you go to Church". Its not really the personal nature individual question which goulds us, or the implication of the question its really does it help us plan things in the next ten years if the answer to that is yes, then sobeit, if on the other hand you feel it should be No then that is ones progative..but just bear in mind if you then feel one should be getting something in 5 years time and one isnt getting it, then maybe the answer should have been yes. Whether there is another way of obtaining information on the populace is very debatable.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    #2 John Mc wrote:

    "The uk can get all it wants from Facebook etc. The US do it that way".

    How will that work then JMc? Because I know more people that don't use Farcebook than do.

    I look forward to an explanation with baited breath.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh for heavens sake!Some people moan about everything! Twenty minutes filling in a form every ten years is hardly likely to cause anyone serious inconvenience,and some questions are voluntary. It can even be done online this time. It's a small price to pay to ensure the government can plan and spend wisely for our future.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why not. Another chance to filter misinformation into the internet.

  • Comment number 20.

    There is another point. Without census records historians and people tracing their ancestors will lose access to population information which has been recorded every ten years since 1841. One wonders if the 'stuff the census' brigade actually have something to hide, or if they just believe in anarchy.

  • Comment number 21.

    The census is a great way to gather information.
    Surveys and statistic suppliers don't work because the results can be manipulated depending on the questions asked by whoever is paying for the answers.
    I'm sure that the government would like to do away with the census since it will be a big scandal when we see how many people have come to live here and continue to enter this country.
    One of our biggest problems is the population compared to the size of the country. The results of the census will cause a lot of upset.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is a total waste of money - by the time the figures are collated, they'll have changed anyway. How can anyone use this information to plan service provision - there's no money for any services anyway - they all depend on finance now not need. How can any of it be accurate - according to the Home Office in 2005 there were between 300,000 and 500,000 illegals in the country (bound to be more now) - they're not going to fill in any forms, are they?

  • Comment number 23.

    it will not be a true recording of the population,it is but a concise estimate..

  • Comment number 24.

    This article was in the Guardian a couple of days back
    David Sharrock and Jamie Doward
    guardian.co.uk, Saturday 19 February 2011 21.15 GMT
    People are being urged to boycott next month's UK's census because the US arms manufacturer responsible for Trident is involved in gathering the information.
    Protesters say they are willing to break the law and face a £1,000 fine and a criminal record by refusing to fill in the 32-page questionnaire. Resistance to the decennial census is growing as a coalition of anti-war groups, pacifists, religious organisations and digital activists begin raising public awareness about the role of Lockheed Martin, America's largest arms manufacturer.
    The company, which makes Trident nuclear missiles, cluster bombs and F-16 fighter jets, won the £150m contract to run the census on behalf of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
    A spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition said: "We will certainly be calling for a boycott and telling people not co-operate with the warmongers."
    The Green party has dropped its original opposition to Lockheed Martin's lead role "because the census is extremely important and needs to be accurate", but there is grassroots disquiet.
    A campaign to address the issue, bringing together religious groups, peace activists and digital data campaigners opposed to Lockheed Martin, is expected to emerge in the coming days. One of its organisers has told the Observer that a call for a boycott would be one of its major considerations. Siân Berry, a former Green party member who led the party's 2008 campaign against Lockheed's bid for the contract, said she was disappointed by the decision to support the census.
    "The really worrying thing is the fact that the information being collected in the next census – including new questions on sources of income and place of birth [to help monitor immigration] – would be ideal fodder for the kind of anti-terror analyses being carried out by Lockheed, and could lead to a faraway database identifying thousands of us as potential 'threats'."
    Lockheed Martin – which does 80% of its work for the US defence department – assists more than two dozen American government agencies and is involved in surveillance and data processing for the CIA and FBI. It has controversially provided private contract interrogators to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. All US-based companies are subject to the Patriot Act, which allows the US government to have access to any data in the company's possession. Campaigners have warned this could give the US government access to detailed and personal data on the UK's entire population.

  • Comment number 25.

    Who will use this information.

    My dog still gets junk mail from insurance companies, financial services providers and mail order catologues eminating from a consumer questionaire on pet food completed over 5 years ago.

  • Comment number 26.

    £420 million to create 35,000 TEMPORARY jobs the crucial word here is 'Temporary'and what has failed to be mentioned.
    Smells a litte of a government proping up its own jobless figures.

    In which case prove to us Mr Cammeron why this is so essential that above all else that is currently wrong, it gets funding.
    I detect panic from a desperatly failing government.

  • Comment number 27.

    #5 No Victim No Crime wrote:

    "Stuff the census"

    Well done. This is THE most ignorant and pointless comment I have ever seen on these boards.

    Moderator: ARE YOU ASLEEP? Any chance of an explanation on why this is deemed passable? Constructive? NO. Explanatory? NO. Inclusive? NO.
    What are you doing letting this bilge in when other, perfectly resonable comments have been withdrawn from other boards in the past?

  • Comment number 28.

    A periodical census is a tool for Government not Society. And the depth of data which a Government needs to know is limited. There are still many people who are computer illiterate/shy whose data may not already be captured already; not least the number of foreign nationals residing here, and it is debatable whether a statutory census would remedy that problem. Worth the money, probably not, the data is out of date the day after it is collected. Will I participate yes, I always have, do I find the questions intrusive not in the past, there is always a first for everything.

  • Comment number 29.

    Create 35,000 jobs!

    I thought this government wanted to cut the number of Civil Servants?

    Now, assuming there will be about 40M forms to process - allows for children on parents forms and the like. That works out at about 1142 forms per new job. Allowing 5 minutes to process each form that works out at 95 hours each - about three weeks work. Hardly a job creation scheme!

    Do we really need to spend £482M doing this? Where are the savings that will come from it and if there are none why is it being done?

  • Comment number 30.

    how about a census on the wealth of the nation.who as the most,who as the least.where are the road system maintained at the highest standard,where do the people with multimillion bank accounts live.life expectant to the pound ratio in relation to benifits and sallary.who actually pays more towards the up keep of our country in wage/tax ratio
    hours worked wage payed,life epectance related to type of working conditions and pay.pensions relative to hours worked wage payed relative to tax percentage of wage/sallary etc..who does give more for ones country????

  • Comment number 31.

    It's one thing creating jobs for a reason. This is not a reason, and the whole thing should be scrapped immediately

    Here we are making everyone redundant right left and centre, the roads are getting worse potholes by the day etc etc...but we can still find money for meaningless rubbish like this.

    Crazy,

  • Comment number 32.

    As census' have been taken pretty much every 10 years since 1801, why should we be any different than previous generations?
    I want the results of the census to show that the demographics of this country have changed dramatically since the last census (i.e. immigration has been rampant, uncontrolled, economically & socially damaging and a blight on this small island). However, such is the blight of unrecorded and illegal migration into UK that any prospect of accurate statistical information is hopeless as this unwelcome sector of society will remain uncanvassed and unaccounted for!!
    Sadly, the idea has merit, but the results will be worthless!

  • Comment number 33.

    Simple answer : yes

    So we can plan thinsg like schools, hospitals to meet the local population increase/decrease

    But saying that

    Why do government departments and councils ask the same questions again and again and again every year when shops can cheerfully recall your name and address from a single purchase 8 years ago?

  • Comment number 34.

    How many questions are there?

    Name?
    Age?
    Sex?

    That should do. Now leave me alone as I'm far too busy to waste any more of my time on nosey parkers.

  • Comment number 35.

    The Cenus is essential - we can never be sure how many people are in the country and I have a feeling that this census will hold a few surprises about the real shape and size of the UK population

    One other point is that I recently researched our family tree - the information from previous census going back to 1841 has been invaluable and fascinating I would like to think that some future generation could find out the same information about my family

  • Comment number 36.

    I am sure all the illegal immigrants are going to rush to put thier names down.

  • Comment number 37.

    Q. An advertising campaign begins today to raise awareness of the latest census for England and Wales. Is it worth the money? A. No, a waste of money, especially in these days of austerity.
    Q. Is a census necessary? A. No, it becomes out of date even before the returns are collated.
    Q. Is it too intrusive? A. Not particularly.
    Q. What information do you think is important? A. None, as all the information collected is already available to the government from other sources such as electoral registers, Birth and Death Registers, GP recordcs etc…
    Q. Are some questions too sensitive to ask? A. Not particularly
    Q. Have you taken part in a census? A. I have always taken part in the census, even though I believe it is a futile effort.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    I think we do but combine it with a national referendum with questions like:
    Do you think capital punishment should be brought back? YES
    Should murders be hanged YES
    Should paedophiles be hanged? YES
    Should convicted criminals be forced to work? YES
    Do you think convicted criminals should have human rights? NO
    Do you want the banks to be made more accountable and remove bonuses? YES
    People who 'refuse to work' receive zero state benefit? YES
    Has Heath and Safety gone mad? YES

    Then we want the Government to act on the answers and I'm sure that with all subscribers to this web page many more questions can be added.

  • Comment number 40.

    A waste of half a billion pounds.
    Just another example of how the last incompetent 'government' was spending OUR money and money we dont have on pet projects.
    They would have been jailed if they had they been in the private sector for their gross negligence.
    I guess it was too late for this government to pull out

  • Comment number 41.

    Good baseline demographic data is essential for both public and private sector businesses aiming to deliver the products and servies in the most effective ways possible.

    The way I see it the current system has 2 main drawbacks:
    1) It's very expensive
    2) The data's shelf life means it's value deacreases rapidly after the first 3-4 years.

    Census data is currently made available for free by the ONS, if they started charging business for using this data it would offset the expense.

    Now I'm normally opposed to privitisation but I can see a strong case for granting a license to a reputable company like experian or one of their competitors to provide the government with annual data. The license could involve providing this data for free to the public sector but it would be theirs to sell to business for a profit.

    There is also the issue of data-quality & detail versus personal privacy. This could be overcome by using passive data collection (loyalty card usage / land registry records etc.) on an annual basis and then using a census once every 10 years to calibrate and error check the results.

  • Comment number 42.

    Unless it tells us where all the ILLEGAL immigrants are living, all relelvant info the govt needs can be obtained from already known govt depts, ie NHS, HMRC, etc.

    Waste of £450m if you ask me

  • Comment number 43.

    We do need a census, possibly more often than we have them at present. They are an essential record of population.
    The whole thing hangs on honesty and I feel that is it's weakness. There are many that can "shoot themselves in the foot" if they answer the survey honestly, there are others that simply cannot tell the difference between truth and lies.
    The only objection I have against the census is the inordinate amount of questions that are irrelevant. They come across as prying and nosiness and are a major cause of folk not answering honestly.

  • Comment number 44.

    #4. piscator:

    Your comment makes a lot of sense. The census is indeed very important for many reasons but what I would question is not the cost - which, assuming a 12-month project equates to less than £14kpa for each employee - but the timing.

    The census is undertaken every 10 years and the last one was 2001 so I know we're due. But in these times of real need, could we not shelve the census for say, 5 years, until we've cracked the back of the deficit?

  • Comment number 45.

    Why is the UK public such a load of moaners?

    Of course we need a Census - without previous generations taking the trouble to fill in their forms we Family Researchers would be lost.

    I have been blessed with long dead relatives with very colourful lives and tracing their whereabouts has been one big adventure.

    Geneology aside this snapshot of the country's population is invaluable. It takes minutes at the most and no-one is going to stand in judgement.

    As for using FaceBook - you must be having a laugh. I have seen more lies printed within the pages of this abomination than anywhere else. For example my grandchildren boast many hundreds of friends on FaceBook but if I question them about most on them they have to admit that they are really friends of friends. What's the point?

  • Comment number 46.

    So I see that some on here think the census is essential so that the Government can "plan for the future" and "spend our money wisely..."

    I'm sure the supreme irony here will not be lost on most of you.



  • Comment number 47.

    14. At 11:35am on 21 Feb 2011, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:
    The money spent on this census would pay the salaries of over 3,200 junior nurses for the next ten years (assuming that they earn an average of £15,000 a year).

    Given the choice I'd rather have the extra nurses and do without the census.

    --------------
    Yes but if you were going to deploy the nurses in the most efficient way possible you'd need some sort of census in order to perform a meaningful analysis of your health service data.

  • Comment number 48.

    I actually went for a job interview just over 10 years ago to work in the IT side of last census. There was a huge amount of computer automation then; and things have improved vastly in IT over that period.

    So, 35,000 jobs ? Doing what exactly ? It's all automated.

  • Comment number 49.

    No we don't. We all have a health service number, NI number and a dozen more besides. Another pointless waste of my time an money.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    Do we need Lockheed Martin conducting this Census? Do we need a Private aerospace, defence and security firm handling personal UK citizens information. Lockheed Martin allegedly have a dubious record when it comes to handling information securely, for example data relating to critical US anti-nuclear missile defence systems. I am very worried.

  • Comment number 52.

    25. At 11:51am on 21 Feb 2011, Confuciousfred wrote:
    Who will use this information.

    My dog still gets junk mail from insurance companies, financial services providers and mail order catologues eminating from a consumer questionaire on pet food completed over 5 years ago.

    -------
    Like

  • Comment number 53.

    17. At 11:43am on 21 Feb 2011, Catpain_Slackbladder wrote:

    #2 John Mc wrote:

    OK you missed the facetious joke. Commenting only on the US Government gleaning facts from Facebook for other purposes.


    So serious....

    OK we need a census but not done as we see it done now on paper. Ask people to go to a counil centre or online and have it done that way. There is UK Gov page even on the TV ....push the red button.

    Must be possible to do it more cheaply and I agree with another commenter, the money could got on oterh things in this time of cuts, cuts and damned more cuts.

    It could be postponed until the UK has more cash.

  • Comment number 54.

    2011 Census?

    The information gathered will be as truthful and/or as accurate as those completing the Census forms...

    ... if the information of the Census is truly confidential, and not cross-matched, then those who do complete the form without honesty for their own reasons ... will result in distorted information?

    Furthermore, with all the loss of laptops and sensitive information about families - remember all those by the last government - why would anyone trust the Census 2011?

    BTW will prisoners be obliged to complete the Census too at a risk a £1000 fine, and if not - why not?

  • Comment number 55.

    No, we don't need another census particularly when times are tight and saving money seems to be the be all and end all.
    The thought police out there have more than enough information on our lives, our habits, our earnings, our savings and our movements.
    We don't seem to have done anything worthwhile with the last lot of figures, the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer,the needy got needier and the unlawful have proliferated.
    And from what I see the Jedi Religion has not grown by much !!

  • Comment number 56.

    Yes, of course.

    If people are too stupid too understand why this information is being collected they shoud be banned from voting in the next election.

  • Comment number 57.

    I find it hard to understand why so many people seem to be hostile toward completing the 2011 census. As another poster said, twenty minutes spent filling-out a census form once every ten years doesn't seem like that much of an inconvenience.

    As for those suggesting that the government should use facebook to collect information, well, what planet are you on? Why would attempting to collect the information from a third party with only partial information, and based outside the UK, be easier? It would be a farce.

    Ultimately, if we don't carry-out the census, then government, both local and national, will have no current/recent figures upon which to base their plans for public services, health care, taxation, housing etc. Stop moaning, log-off facebook or put down your book for twenty minutes and fill-out the blasted form! Once it's done, you can forget about it for another ten years.

  • Comment number 58.

    I propose to answer all questions honestly. When it comes to Ethenicity I will reply just like last time, tick other and write Human Being. I will treat all other nosey parker questions in exactly the same manner.

  • Comment number 59.

    Yes we do! Anybody researching family history knows how valuable these are - think of our grandchildren etc who might want to look these things up!

  • Comment number 60.

    In Germany the population is known at all times through official registers. There is no need for this decennial count.

  • Comment number 61.

    Do we need another census?

    Census director said the data collected was invaluable to allow local and central government, businesses and voluntary groups to plan their service provision.

    The fact is, the reasons for census have been annulled due to cuts to service provision.

    To count people and plan accordingly, we have births and deaths registration, yet governments have been negligent at counting people in/out of the UK which negates the basis of census information.

    The census is only as valid as the information provided, I know of nothing that has included the rising number of "Jedi" in the country, no equal rights for Jedi, no churches, no equal opportunities.

    Maybe Jedi women feel there is a glass ceiling preventing them from reaching their potential!!!

  • Comment number 62.

    Billy wrote:
    Yes but if you were going to deploy the nurses in the most efficient way possible you'd need some sort of census in order to perform a meaningful analysis of your health service data.


    Alternatively the government could find out which hospitals are currently paying the most in overtime pay for their nursing staff and then deploy the extra nurses appropriately, the idea that we'd need a national census costing half a billion pounds to work out such details is laughable.

    The census made sense up until about 20 years ago; we now have the technology to do away with it and to use the savings to provide additional front line services or tax cuts.

  • Comment number 63.

    Why not? It's a way of keeping track and it provides historical data for future generations too. Twenty minutes of my time once a decade, as has already been pointed out - I don't have a problem with that.

    That said, I'm pretty sure there might be higher priorities for the money, but - fair enough.

  • Comment number 64.

    51. At 12:26pm on 21 Feb 2011, Have your say Rejected wrote:
    Do we need Lockheed Martin conducting this Census? Do we need a Private aerospace, defence and security firm handling personal UK citizens information. Lockheed Martin allegedly have a dubious record when it comes to handling information securely, for example data relating to critical US anti-nuclear missile defence systems. I am very worried.

    --------------

    Why very worried? Is there some top-secret information on the census that would be terrible if someone found out?

  • Comment number 65.

    Sing a new song, number 42. We're all so VERY bored with that one

  • Comment number 66.

    It seems to me that a lot of objectors to the census have something to hide. They are probably the same people who rant about illegal immigration and dole scrougers. Well now we have a chance to find out the truth. Though the rightwingwers usually cannot handle the truth, tucked away in their castles of ignorance whilst waving their copies of the Mail.

    The census is necessary to provide information to plan for the future. Hospital building, schooling requirements, housing and transport. This is why we have a census not to spy on the average person but to make decisions that will affect us all.

  • Comment number 67.

    #2 John Mc wrote:

    "The uk can get all it wants from Facebook etc. The US do it that way".
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The US DO NOT do it that way, where do people GET this stuff from?!?!?

  • Comment number 68.

    How can they know how many people to target market, with out the information from the census? Junk mail companys and indian call centres' would be spending more money, to hound us all some more ,thats what the census is about ? Not for this government or the local council to have some updated information on who or what type of people live in they part of the country, or to provide some services for them? with the con/fibdem cuts there will be no proper services for anyone ' {See Big society} for any one so the census, is a waste of taxpayers money.

  • Comment number 69.

    If we do not have a census, the goverment definitely will not know who is here legally, therefore we have to have one. No other system is remotely accurate, just ask the Border Control Agency.

  • Comment number 70.

    Good grief - someone has already brought up paedophiles in a thread about the national census! HYS really has gone downhill - where have all the witty posters gone?

    To answer the question, of course the census is important. It's nothing to do with the government being intrusive or just plain nosey, it's about the government needing to know the nation's demographics so that it can plan adequately for the future. How can anyone be expected to plan for 65 million people if you don't know how old they are or even where they're based?

    The 'government' may have some of this information already but Data Protection laws mean that this information can't be shared because it was collected for another purpose. Why should GP records be made available to the ONS? Who would be to blame if the data was leaked or sensitive data was erroneously transferred? These sorts of things have all happened in the past. And big high-street banks lose customers' information just as often as the MOD misplaces a laptop.

    The census gathers the information necessary to inform government policy over the coming decades. If it's not reasonably accurate then how can anyone expect the plans to work out as intended?

    Housing, health and education plans are based on the census. I believe that this year the census will ask how people travel to work - which may give someone in Whitehall a nudge towards improving public transport outside of London.

    I'm not sure what the relevance of finding out the person's religion has to do with government planning - unless there's a church building programme planned.

    I, for the record, am a Jedi.

  • Comment number 71.

    Paying an AMERICAN company to run the census was the first mistake...
    a) BRITISH tax payers money is being spent employing AMERICANS which is hardly a good idea
    b) British data is - by American law - now fully available to the American government, before even the people who paid for it can get it!

  • Comment number 72.

    40. At 12:14pm on 21 Feb 2011, AuntieLeft wrote:

    A waste of half a billion pounds.
    Just another example of how the last incompetent 'government' was spending OUR money and money we dont have on pet projects.
    They would have been jailed if they had they been in the private sector for their gross negligence.
    I guess it was too late for this government to pull out

    _ _ _ _

    Whilst I was no fan of the previous Labour government, I found this post simply breathtaking. The census has nothing to do with the last government. It has been carried-out every ten years since the 1800s regardless of which party, or parties, have made-up the government of the day.

  • Comment number 73.


    Do we need another census?

    I would rather see a census once every twenty-five years.

  • Comment number 74.

    Was not on the last one, am not on any electoral roll.
    Come to think of it, do i really exist? hmm?
    Do i need to be on any of the above to get a blue badge pass? NO!

  • Comment number 75.

    66. At 12:52pm on 21 Feb 2011, Darwins Chimp wrote:
    It seems to me that a lot of objectors to the census have something to hide. They are probably the same people who rant about illegal immigration and dole scrougers. Well now we have a chance to find out the truth. Though the rightwingwers usually cannot handle the truth, tucked away in their castles of ignorance whilst waving their copies of the Mail.

    The census is necessary to provide information to plan for the future. Hospital building, schooling requirements, housing and transport. This is why we have a census not to spy on the average person but to make decisions that will affect us all.
    *********************************
    Whilst having nothing to hide I do object on grounds of cost.
    All the information they require is out there on voting registers, Vehicle licensing, tax/paye offices, council taxes, any benefits anyone claims etc etc.
    What matter the transport, housing, schooling requirements when everything is being cut to the bone in anycase due to the current crisis.
    Pretty soon much of the above will be too expensive to use in anycase rising fuel prices, transport fares, up and coming mass redundancies.
    No on the whole it's another area they can save money and time on.

  • Comment number 76.

    Yes we do.
    And we need to ensure that the questions are fair.
    For example
    The religion question should be framed in a way that reflects your current practise so there is no confusion when the data is used to justify money for ridiculous brain-washing 'faith' schools.
    Filling in the survey is mandatory (so we know how many doctors, school places etc we need) if you fail to fill it in, you make it harder for the civil service to determine the right level of provision of public services.

  • Comment number 77.

    I see that already the whingers and the moaners are out.

    People as usual pulling facts from thin air complaining about intrusion, stating that the information required can be obtained from other sources and that it is not needed.

    We have people like Tio Terry stating that it will take 5 minutes to process each form how does he know that, also he may like to know that the form is per household not per person.

    If my memory is correct it took about 18 months or so in 2001 for the preliminary figures to come out.

    The actual number of staff being recruites is I think smaller than what it was in 2001

    John Mc ahs come out with a sweeping statement saying that we are all on the elctoral roll. Not true children that are currently below voting ag and will remain so before the next one will be compiled are not on it.

    We All get tax bills again not true

    We all get utility bills again not true.

    We need a census because people and peoples demands change over the years so both at national level and local level things can be planned.

    Do we need one every ten years not sure. Maybe that we need one every five years because of the way things chage.

    As for the comments made by middleagedandgrumpy they are not worth commenting on.

  • Comment number 78.

    I agree with comment 56. And they cant get it all from facebook. Not everyone uses it. like me.

  • Comment number 79.

    Another complete waste of money and another government snooping operation.
    Even if they do base future policies on census results they get most of those policies wrong in the first place and/or change them with a new government. A pointless, expensive waste of time.

  • Comment number 80.

    They should bring in compulsory ID cards for all, doing away with the need for a census.

    Only crims could have anything to fear from ID cards.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    There should be a limited compulsory census, just Name, Age & Place of Birth. After which there can be the optional questions on Race, Religion, Transport, Washing Machines, voting intensions and what ever.

  • Comment number 83.

    40. At 12:14pm on 21 Feb 2011, AuntieLeft wrote:

    A waste of half a billion pounds.
    Just another example of how the last incompetent 'government' was spending OUR money and money we dont have on pet projects.
    They would have been jailed if they had they been in the private sector for their gross negligence.
    I guess it was too late for this government to pull out

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Typical rancid rightwing statement from ignorance. ALL governments since the 19thC. carry out the census irrespective of their political persausion. Take off you red tinted glases and view the world in its true colours. Words fail me .

  • Comment number 84.

    I can see the purpose of the census (particularly in terms of historical comprison 200 years from now when Facebook and Twitter are so much digital dust) but also understand the opposition to it. The last government understood the power of information and set about collecting it in large quantities. Had they remained in power I have little doubt they'd have started dreaming up imaginative ways to misuse it and wield it against us.

    What's more, and as others have said, there is little in the current census that can't be gleaned from other sources and probably in much greater detail. For instance, a question titled 'How is your health in general?' with 'good / average / poor' options is meaningless when compared with electronic health records and the world's biggest register of obese people. Land Registry records contain info on who owns what and council tax databases / electoral rolls cover residence at a property, value, number of bedrooms etc. I suspect my American wife would worry about the various immigration questions had we both not had to answer a 40-odd page form full of far more intrusive and personal questions, all backed up with evidence of our relationship, health, financial circumstances etc, in order to obtain the visa on which she resides here. Meanwhile, those who circumvented the 'proper channels' are unlikely to lack the ingenuity to find a way around 'shopping' themselves on a census form.

    Whilst I'm not entirely comfortable with a US defence company adminstering the survey, a quick check of Wikipedia suggests they were heavily involved a decade ago and the world hasn't ended, neither have UK citizens been disappearing into black bags as a result of their census answers. I suspect the CIA know far more about individual Brits than they let on via their surveillance of communications channels in this country, and if the rumours about their involvement in Facebook are true maybe our Government should be approaching them for data - it would save the taxpayer a fortune!

  • Comment number 85.

    2. At 11:08am on 21 Feb 2011, John Mc wrote:

    The uk can get all it wants from Facebook etc. The US do it that way.

    We are all on the electoral roll, well nearly, we all get tax bills, we all get utility bills. The information is already out there Mr Goverment Census man who is doubling his costs for the service this year as he is due a bonus probably.

    OK rant over. No we do not.

    ...............................................................
    Everyone is NOT on Facebook. Where did you get that idea?
    The US has a proper census with posted forms and census workers who go about helping people to fill the forms out properly. Where did you get the idea that the US did their census on Facebook?
    We are NOT all on the electorial roll and NOT everyone gets Tax bills. I pay our utility bills and the utility company doesn't even know my husbands name.
    Where is your information coming from?
    The census is an ancient tried and true way of getting information about the people and is useful when planning our future infrastructure.
    Of course there are so many illegal people in this country who will not be wanting to comply but that is another story.

  • Comment number 86.

    Hmm, I think a bit of effective data-mining could achieve everything a census could in this information age. For example, there's a single bank where 30 million of us have their primary accounts now: gotta be loads of information there.

    That said, I think they should do a census, and they should do it online. The reason I think they should is that this would necessitate the creation of the kind of polling infrastructure that could, one day, potentially render all politicians redundant and we could get shot of the whole sorry lot of them.

    I give you the age of the eReferendum. Want out of the EU? Vote on your PC. Want votes for prisoners? Open up your iPhone App and tap 'Yes'. Want a stop sign at the end of your street? Push the red button now ...

    Ah, utopia. And in this bright future what's the next tough question we hear Cameron, Clegg, Milliband and co put to us?

    "... Do you want fries with that?"

  • Comment number 87.

    There is no way I am handing my household information over to an american arms company, this could potentially put my partner(ex-forces) at risk. How can the BRITISH government willingly hand over our information to the US government? We all knew they were in bed together, they didn't have to make it so obvious. We're being sold out again.

  • Comment number 88.

    77. At 1:08pm on 21 Feb 2011, lenkel wrote:

    I see that already the whingers and the moaners are out.



    John Mc ahs come out with a sweeping statement saying that we are all on the elctoral roll. Not true children that are currently below voting ag and will remain so before the next one will be compiled are not on it.

    If you have children below 18 then they will apear on a school system linked to your address.

    The next census may mean they have moved out on their own by then.

    We All get tax bills again not true -- all my family do!

    We all get utility bills again not true. All my family do!

    Strange isn't it?

  • Comment number 89.

    Before the age of the computer it may have been sensible.Computers are now so advanced that this type of info is commonplace with survey after survey on the net.As the info collected takes so long to be released its already out of date because technology moves at a fair old pace and its just old news within months.
    With a cost of over £500m I would like to see how its justified? Lets look at the costing because this type of info at the cost projected is the work of the "civil service" and we all know how good they are at maths!!!!!Save the dosh and keep some worthwhile services.

  • Comment number 90.

    No problem with a census, but what good is it, when a least a million people, either illigal or not registered in the system will be missed out. The collected information will be incorrect right fromt he start, so what use is it. As for the questions, it depends on the way that they are asked: For instance millions of people put their religion down and C of E, but only about 1% are practising Christians, and I expect the same goes for other faiths. Also,some people who are asked delicate questions about their gender, or relationships, are hardly going to answer them, or possibly make something up. And what about all those people who envent their education. For a census to work, everyone has to be honest, and everyone has to fill it in, and sorry, I just don't see that happening.

  • Comment number 91.

    I have two questions, one for the government and one I would like them to put on the Census form:
    * Why is this costing so much and who has checked the validity of the cost?
    *Can I see your papers/letter from the Home Office giving you leave to stay in this country
    If I am expected to contribute to this exercise through my taxes, paying this ridiculous 482 million (the mind boggles - someone is getting VERY VERY rich from this), I want some input into the questions!

  • Comment number 92.

    I suppose it is necessary - but at a cost of £13,800 per employee? How on earth can it cost that much to gather information, most of which will be read automatically by computers and not require human intervention?

    Oh, I forgot - it needs hundreds of project managers to write mission statements, risk assessments and health and safety guidance notes, and maybe then direct and oversee the exercise; and of course, the forms themselves will be longer than ever to cater for all the different religions, ethnicities and sexual preferences. And then there will be others with clipboards, interpreting the results and writing very, very lengthy reports that are, when analysed, repetitive, full of jargon and tell us very little more than we knew already.

  • Comment number 93.

    67. At 12:55pm on 21 Feb 2011, Kat wrote:78. At 1:09pm on 21 Feb 2011, paul tapner wrote:

    No humour anymore........



    17. At 11:43am on 21 Feb 2011, Catpain_Slackbladder wrote:

    #2 John Mc wrote:

    OK you missed the facetious joke. Commenting only on the US Government gleaning facts from Facebook for other purposes.


    So serious....

    OK we need a census but not done as we see it done now on paper. Ask people to go to a counil centre or online and have it done that way. There is UK Gov page even on the TV ....push the red button.

    Must be possible to do it more cheaply and I agree with another commenter, the money could got on oterh things in this time of cuts, cuts and damned more cuts.

    It could be postponed until the UK has more cash.

  • Comment number 94.

    What's this about England and Wales? The last I heard we were having one up here in the land of eternal night (see clocks going forward story) as well. In fact I took part a couple of years ago in a trial run of the new online version as my postcode was chosen to test it.
    As a family historian I would be lost without old census records, so I want to see it continue from that point of view. It is also probably a cost-effective way of gathering all the information together - the individual data items may well be available elsewhere, as some people have said, but it would probably require considerable effort to collate it by family group or household.

  • Comment number 95.

    75. At 1:07pm on 21 Feb 2011, paul wrote:

    66. At 12:52pm on 21 Feb 2011, Darwins Chimp wrote:
    It seems to me that a lot of objectors to the census have something to hide. They are probably the same people who rant about illegal immigration and dole scrougers. Well now we have a chance to find out the truth. Though the rightwingwers usually cannot handle the truth, tucked away in their castles of ignorance whilst waving their copies of the Mail.

    The census is necessary to provide information to plan for the future. Hospital building, schooling requirements, housing and transport. This is why we have a census not to spy on the average person but to make decisions that will affect us all.
    *********************************
    Whilst having nothing to hide I do object on grounds of cost.
    All the information they require is out there on voting registers, Vehicle licensing, tax/paye offices, council taxes, any benefits anyone claims etc etc.
    What matter the transport, housing, schooling requirements when everything is being cut to the bone in anycase due to the current crisis.
    Pretty soon much of the above will be too expensive to use in anycase rising fuel prices, transport fares, up and coming mass redundancies.
    No on the whole it's another area they can save money and time on.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Sorry Paul but if we could pay to have the census drawn up in the 1930's then we can afford to pay for it now. As a country we are wealthy, especially if you close the tax loop holes that big business exploits to avoid paying tax. The reason the vast majority of us are feeling the pinch is because money is not flowing evenly round the economy. You cannot gather all information based on your propositions as there are still people who slide through the net, both electronically and for figuratively. Imagine the costs that would be incurred if we had to set up a new system to gather all the odd bits of information that is out there, much is on private Data bases and I'm sure they would want their pound of flesh. The census is the best we have a this time and probably the most accurate way of gathering information and we are an information society. Half a Billion pounds is not that much for the U.K. or shall I mention bankers bonuses. No.

  • Comment number 96.

    14. At 11:35am on 21 Feb 2011, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:
    The money spent on this census would pay the salaries of over 3,200 junior nurses for the next ten years (assuming that they earn an average of £15,000 a year).

    Given the choice I'd rather have the extra nurses and do without the census.

    ===============================
    And how wouold your local health authority know the extent to which it needs to provide for an ageing population if no-one knows the size of that population?

  • Comment number 97.

    80. At 1:14pm on 21 Feb 2011, potatolord wrote:
    They should bring in compulsory ID cards for all, doing away with the need for a census.

    Only crims could have anything to fear from ID cards.

    --------------------------------------------------------------
    I take it you mean criminals? If so whay can't you just say that. As for your statement, on what do you base this stunning insight of the free thinking majority. And that if we are all against an ID card then we must be up to no good. I can't for one second myself, prove otherwise and am prepared to say that - so please let us all know what proof you have or is this just another "assumption"? And really you have no idea.

  • Comment number 98.

    I wonder how many of those people against the government collecting and having data on them also think that sex offenders should be taken off the list?

  • Comment number 99.

    How about a census asking who foolishly voted Lib at the last election and how many would be naïve enough to vote for them again? I would be far more interested in the results of that rather than the population of the country.

  • Comment number 100.

    How about re-phrasing the question to:

    Do we need another lame HYS topic?

 

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