Making it count

The national census provides crucial data that helps inform the work of local authorities, and councillors have a key role to play in encouraging residents to take part.

The census happens once every 10 years, and on 21 March Census 2021 will be here!

The census provides a complete picture of England and Wales through population statistics. Such data are vital to us at national, local and community levels. 

The information gathered by the census helps inform decisions around policy making, service planning and resource allocation. Everyone who works for a local authority – and not least us, the councillors – can play an integral part in helping make Census 2021 a success.

The survey, run in England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), returns detailed information about the country – crucial in helping shape our communities. 

Population statistics, for example, can identify local inequalities and needs for services such as bus routes, bike lanes, dental and GP surgeries and housing.

Each year, councils spend billions of pounds in England and Wales, much of it informed by census data. It’s important census population estimates are accurate so these funds are allocated where they’re needed most. 

And to achieve accurate estimates, the ONS needs good response rates from all areas and communities. This is where we come in. It’s our grassroots knowledge and community expertise that can make the difference, by:

  • raising public awareness of the census and promoting the online census (paper questionnaires are still available for those who prefer them)
  • appointing a census liaison manager (CLM) and assistant census liaison manager (ACLM) to act as contact points between us and the ONS
  • making sure our address index (local property gazetteer) is up to date and accurate
  • promoting ONS field staff jobs to local people
  • supporting and sharing local information with ONS to inform their field operations.

As a councillor, you are the trusted voice and familiar face who can help to engage your community with Census 2021. You can do this by encouraging people to take part in the census whenever and wherever possible, building awareness of the census as a community leader, and staying in contact with your council’s CLM and ACLM for census progress updates.

The 2011 Census was a huge success with an overall response rate of 94 per cent, with at least 80 per cent in all local authority areas. A large part of that achievement was thanks to the support of councils. 

So, let’s use that platform and build on it for Census 2021, as a successful census helps everyone.

Using census data

Ceredigion County Council used census information to secure funding from the Welsh Government Rural Communities Development Fund, to refurbish two playgrounds, resurface a skate park, and transform a tennis court into a multi-use games area.  

Cathryn Morgan, Play Development Officer at Ceredigion Council, said: “Without the stats from the 2011 census it would have been very difficult to pull together the evidence needed by the funding body to successfully get the grant.”

Bristol City Council used census information to help adults without formal qualifications access further learning to improve career and life opportunities. 

Cllr Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “By using information from the census we have been able to target our Community Learning Service to reach isolated communities across the city who have, in the past, struggled to access this support.”

For more information and resources about the census and how you can support it, please visit You can follow the census on ONS social media channels @Census2021 and @Cyfrifrad2021


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