Richard Jones is Head of Intelligence and Analytics at Liverpool City Council. He shares with us the history of the National Census and the important reasons we should complete it.
There has been a National Census every 10 years (apart from in 1941 for obvious reasons) since 1801, when William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister, George III was King, and Charles Dickens’ parents hadn’t even met yet. The Census counts showed that Liverpool had a tiny population of 86,000 back in 1801 before exploding and by the end of the century there were 700,000 people living in the city.
In the midst of a global pandemic, this year’s Census on March 21st has understandably not had the usual build-up or attention it deserves….but they were conducted back in the early 19th century when smallpox, measles, cholera and other horrendous diseases were rife, so I’m sure we can get it done in 2021.
It’s a digital-first Census and you can even complete it on your phone, paper copies are also available and in multiple languages, field officers wearing PPE will be chasing up stragglers, there will be five Census Support Centres across the city helping people to fill it in, so there’s no excuse. With lockdown still in effect we should all be able to find half an hour to box it off.
There are numerous reasons why all of us living in Liverpool, and across the City Region, need to complete the Census form. You never know, you might have a famous relative in the distant future who looks you up on Who Do You Think You Are? In the immediate term though Census findings are used to inform:
Financial Allocation from Central Government. Our population has grown over the last decade which is not accurately reflected in Liverpool’s annual population estimates. We need an accurate population baseline from this Census to ensure we get the maximum and proper funding from Government to continue to provide all the great services our residents rely on. Even if 99% of our residents completed the Census, we could potentially lose out on £3.5M a year for the next decade.
Service Planning. We can’t plan or redesign services if we don’t understand where the demand or need is.
Supporting bids and academic research.
Providing vital information on particular sections of our population. For instance, the Census is the only data source that provides details on our BAME communities.
These are just some of the reasons why we should all complete the Census. We should do it not because we have to (it is the law with up to a £1,000 fine if you don’t), but because we want to for the benefit of everyone who works and lives in the city.