Population data figures to remain rigged so as to short-change Londoners

It is well-known that Londoners already have to subsidise the rest of the country but this has been made consistently worse by the failure to calculate London’s population properly and, in particular, properly to reflect in Government grant calculations the number of migrants in London.

Back in May last year, the House of Commons Treasury Committee reported that the means used by the Office of National Statistics for measuring international migration was not fit for purpose and called on the ONS to develop a new survey to provide more accurate data.  It also concluded that:

“it is evident that there are substantial problems in generating accurate population estimates in some Local Authority areas. The current methods of estimating internal migration are unsatisfactory and lead to decisions on the allocation of funding to Local Authorities being based on inadequate information.”

The Committee warned that it was “seriously concerned about the reliability and validity of ONS estimates of short-term international migrants” and pointed out that “evidence from administrative data sources such as the National Insurance Number register suggests the ONS estimates do not reflect the scale of short-term migration in England and Wales.”  It recommended that:

“the Statistics Authority examine the feasibility of producing estimates of short-term migration at sub-national level, using the successor to the International Passenger Survey that we recommended earlier and a greater range of administrative data.”

and that: 

“the Statistics Authority continue the ONS’s work with Local Authorities and carries out a series of case studies to identify alternative administrative data sources. These include the National Insurance Number register, GP lists, other health service lists, council tax records, and various registers on children and school children.”

The Government responded to the Select Committee’s report last September, saying that it accepted the Committee’s analysis on this issue and welcoming the efforts that the ONS would be making to resolve the problems.

However, the ONS has just announced that it does not propose that anything be done about the problem before the 2010 grant settlement.

London Councils has commented on this, pointing out that this failure to act is going to cost London millions of pounds of funding and that the ONS figures on the basis of their existing flawed methodology suggest a decline in London’s population of 100,000 and a loss of £130 million to council services.

This is not a new issue: the London Boroughs had been raising concerns about this long before the Treasury Slelect Committee examined the issue.  It is frankly extraordinary that another year is going to drift by with London still being short-changed.

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