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The National Census of 2021 will be crucial to the future of local authorities throughout the UK.

It will provide the data to inform the Government's perspective on their challenges on a national scale, influence the targeting of resources and feed into decisions on funding for local initiatives.

In turn, accurate data will be crucial to the census, ensuring that every residential address is identified, and all the relevant information collected. This is where the address custodians in local government emerging as key figures in shaping the future for their authorities and the national outlook for public services.

Value of the census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which runs the census, has estimated that its total value for local authorities over the next 10 years will be around £1.8 billion, largely in determining the level of support to come from central government. It feeds into resources such as the area classifications and the Index of Multiple Deprivation to identify future demand for services and support the provision of schools, healthcare facilities and other social infrastructure.

It also supports councils in their joint strategic needs assessments and development of local and neighbourhood plans, helping to support its own allocation of resources. It can feed into planning school places, support for older people, transport infrastructure, energy efficiency projects, recreational facilities and local consultations

The address information created and maintained by Custodians is central to the address list that ONS will use for the Census. Every address curated by a Custodian has a direct value to the council. Not just in terms of the amount of Revenue Support Grant awarded to councils, but also because local authorities use the census to target resources and plan future demand.

Grants to councils

The census is a fundamental building block of how grants are awarded to councils; thereby meaning good quality address information, so that every citizen is picked up, is really important when it comes to the amount of money given to authorities.

Currently the construction of the needs formulae that is used to allocate funding to authorities is under review before the reset and introduction of 75% business rates retention in 2020.  However, the census is likely to remain the single most important data source for needs formulae.

The full list of current underlying data (which has not changed since 2013/14) is available at http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140505104701/http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/1314/settle.htm

Census data is used for the following areas:

  • Resident population – total and particular age groups (eg 0-18,13-19,18-64,65+ – currently population projections for 2013 are used – if the same methodology is followed population projections for 2020 would be used until the following reset);

  • Sparsity – sparse and super-sparse areas receive additional funding in certain formulae and thresholded measure based on super output areas from the census is used and density

  • Demographic data used within needs indices which ultimately derives from the census – eg country of birth, single person households and many others.

The government is thinking of giving a larger role to the Index of Multiple Deprivation in future, which is also largely census based.


GeoPlace has put together resources to help support work of Custodians and demonstrate the requirement for accurate and up-to-date information on addresses, properties and land areas.

Resources from the Office for National Statistics

There is a dedicated space on the Khub for technical guidance documentations and discussion. Please see https://khub.net/group/geoplace/group-forum/-/message_boards/category/175533243.

Presentations from conferences:

The Census section on the Khub hosts further information, see https://khub.net/group/geoplace/group-forum/-/message_boards/category/175533243 (log-in required).


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