Whilst David Brownsey-Joyce was filling out his questionnaire for this decade’s census he wondered what the real point of it was.
It’s that time again, the year in ten, the Census in England and Wales is upon us and those that feel they should shirk their responsibility should know that it is an offence to continuously fail to fill out the simple questionnaire and pop it back in the post, do it online or tick the boxes whilst holding it steady on the back of one of the doorstep army ready to descend upon us; and you can be fined up to £1,000 if convicted.
But what’s the actual point of it? Put simply it counts us. Each household in England and Wales will receive a printed questionnaire with a return freepost envelope, ahh aren’t they thoughtful, and then have until the 27th March to get it to their little depo just outside of Manchester, actually they won’t get everything until mid June but really there’s no reason to be tardy that just invites annoying people to knock on your door and ask you to fill in the exact same questionnaire you dumped in recycling, threw in the fire, or hold in a file as further evidence of our totalitarian state (those who think we live in a totalitarian state should really take a look around or at least collect better pieces of evidence than a census questionnaire.)
Apart from the odd few who will refuse to answer, those that feel it is a trick or perhaps don’t understand the reason behind it should understand one thing; your local authority needs this data. They need to know how to plan for the next ten years; they need to know what services they need to provide, from what is now a shrinking pot and if possible put further pressure on the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to lobby for more funding for local government.
This questionnaire is not about this year, it’s not about next year, it’s about the next ten years; it’s about ensuring there is evidence to backup calls for an increase in the financial settlement that local authorities receive.
Local authorities will also use this to plan how many schools, hospitals, social workers, care homes, recycling facilities, and every other service they plan on providing, how many they actually need.
It’s strange to think in this way considering the amount in cuts councils are currently making, the thought that they may need to build more schools or hospitals is quite worrying. Of course if this data shows that areas have to many of one service that will make the cuts a little easier, if the opposite is true it may be a little more difficult to fix.
This of course we cannot control unless someone at the Office for National Statistics would say, like to massage the figures a little bit, doubtful. What will be will be and the ever increasing pressure on services will continue as our population rate moves ever upwards, however there are some short-term positives from this.
Firstly they will be able to sort out the cases of duplications in addresses, such as I experienced when I received not one but two copies of the Census questionnaire, one for Flat 4, one for Flat D. As I have now explained to the Office for National Statistics there are not two flats sharing the same time and space, using two different definitions to mean the same thing but rather there is one space and they need to update their bloody records.
Secondly there are a number of jobs being created, short-term yes, but a job’s a job and that gap on the old CV may look a little smaller with this in place. An army of 35,000 staff are recruited to chase up all of you naughty people out there who are going to make a further 1,300 staff at a processing depo in Trafford Park, this will include specialists and a lot will finish the job with a new qualification. All in all not bad for the short-term unemployment figures.
Not bad for a process that could cost in the region of £482 million considering it involves retrieving data from 26 million households and it is the first time that it will allow people to submit their responses electronically; score one for increasing technology usage next step internet voting.
Of course there will be those that wonder what the point is but the answer at the end of the day is simple, we need to know how many people are in this country to plan services, without an accurate figure politicians wouldn’t need to justify any of their decisions they could just say. I fancy a police force of this size but I don’t know how many people I can expect to be paying council tax in this area so we’ll worry about that when the money runs out, oh wait that already happened, never mind. Maybe our politicians will do a better job with the figures this time, this happens ever 10 years so they’ll get it right eventually.
Then again they may just scrap the whole thing and be done with it; a report is currently in the works to see whether the Census should be scrapped altogether.