‘Extreme caution’ urged over census data collected in pandemic despite ONS saying it has ‘full confidence’ in its figures
Census figures collected during the national lockdown should be treated with “extreme caution” according to a council leader, after appearing to leave off three per cent of the capital’s population.
It has been claimed that the Office for National Statistics’ latest data failed to include 300,000 Londoners compared to the previous projection, despite the organisation saying it has “full confidence” in its findings.
This comes as the overall population of England and Wales grew by more than six per cent in the last decade, to in excess of 60m.
The data will have an impact on levels of funding according to the cross-party London Councils umbrella body, representing 32 boroughs and the City of London corporation.
It claimed about £4bn is relied upon in sourcing funding from census data, with further billions lost for the Greater London Assembly, NHS, and emergency services.
The ONS categorically denied the claims, saying it has “have full confidence in our Census estimates. We achieved a fantastic response rate of 97 per cent – and over 88 per cent in every local authority – and undertook the most comprehensive quality assurance ever, including involving Local Authorities for the first time.”
It said “for some students and in some urban areas, there is evidence that the coronavirus pandemic did result in changes to where people lived.”
Councillor Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said the “census 2021 took place during the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and a national lockdown, so this snapshot data must be treated with extreme caution”,
Saying census dats is “a really important tool for policy and decision makers” and that “accurate census data matters”, she urged the government to consider the reported discrepancy in figures because “billions of pounds for frontline services are at stake.”
She said issues such as “high levels of migration, homelessness and population churn” would have been made worse by the lockdown, in addition to those “who suffer from digital exclusion” while being forced indoors.
The organisation claims many Londoners would have been missed off after leaving the capital during the pandemic. It also said one-in-ten Londoners was missed by the previous census in 2011.
A campaign was also launched by Central London Forward (CLF) to ‘find’ the missing Londoners from the census.
CLF, a group of 12 local authorities, stressed that the figures were “skewed”, with Westminster missing 30,000 residents (15 per cent of the population.)
They raised concerns this could lead to £40m less in funding, against the backdrop of rising costs of living, with Westminster City Council’s finance leader, Cllr David Boothroyd, warning that “at a time of soaring inflation these Lost Londoners really do matter, especially in the funding we get from the Government.
The City of London Corporation and Mayor of London have been approached for comment.