Population planning

Data from Census 2021 can help us understand who is living in our districts.

As you will no doubt have seen in the media recently, the first results from Census 2021 are out.
These estimates of population and households cover England and Wales, rounded to the nearest 100, and for each local authority district.

While most areas of the country have seen their populations grow over the decade, there are pockets that showed a decline on Census Day (21 March 2021).

What is most definitely clear is that we are an increasingly ageing population.

The census is vital for councils because it helps us understand who is living in our local areas. Take school places, as an example. The census doesn’t just tell us how many babies and toddlers are living in an area, it helps us look into the future.

By knowing how many young adults or young married couples live locally, provision for school places for the decade to come can be made.

Of course, it’s not just school places. Planning for hospital beds, care homes, transport systems, playgrounds, even where to build supermarkets and what to stock on shelves, all rely on the detailed intelligence a census gives us.

I’d urge you all to familiarise yourselves with the first release of data, if you haven’t already done so. Everyone can go online to explore the data and find out about their local area. There’s even an interactive game to guess the population.

“We have gone even further in ensuring the census statistics are of the best quality

Over the coming months, the Office for National Statistics will release more statistics and analysis about how we were living in 2021.

The final picture will include information on ethnicity, language, country of birth, religion, the labour market, education and housing.

For the first time, this will also include details about UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

As time rolls on, the ONS will provide that data down to electoral ward level, which will be of huge interest to councillors up and down the country.

Having this information has never been more important as we, hopefully, emerge from the pandemic.

We had a fantastic response to the census but, by engaging with local authorities we have gone even further in ensuring the census statistics are of the best quality they can be.

For the first time, we gave all local government organisations the opportunity to have early sight of the data as part of our rigorous quality assurance processes and, where there was clear evidence to do so, made changes accordingly.

Some councils may have seen an unexpected fall in their area’s population. It is worth bearing in mind that, whenever you take a census, it is a snapshot in time.

This time that was during a pandemic when some of us may have been living and working somewhere different to immediately before the pandemic.

Of course, since census day the world has continued to change – and will continue to do so. People move home, change jobs, some will have left the country while others will have arrived.

We are committed to reflecting continuing changes, using a variety of data sources, to provide more frequent, timely, and inclusive statistics to allow us all to understand population change in local areas this year and beyond.

We are also continuing to work with local government across England and Wales, to ensure changes are reflected in our ongoing statistics in a timely fashion.

This will, in turn, allow us all to understand changes in local populations and numbers and types of occupied households, and ensure population statistics meet the needs of data users on an ongoing basis.

We rely on our partnerships with local  government to make the best use of your unique local insights as we transition to a system making greater use of administrative data. To that end, we will be launching a framework for receiving local insight and data relating to local populations later in the summer.

In September 2022, we will publish further information on the quality assurance work we carried out for Census 2021. This will include findings from feedback we received from organisations, as well as the analysis we undertook across England and Wales using the most comprehensive set of comparator sources available.

Your council’s census data in LG Inform

You may not be surprised to learn that the first results from Census 2021 were quickly added into LG Inform, the LGA’s data benchmarking tool for councils.

We’ve created a Census 2021 report for each area to provide you with quick and easy access to the 2021 results, how this has changed since 2011, and how your council area compares to your region and the country as a whole.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the data for your area yet, our report gives you a quick and easy snapshot.

The new Census 2021 report is available on the website. Simply select your council at the top of the report.

ONS will be releasing additional data at a more granular level over the next two years. As this becomes available, we will add it to LG Inform and LG Inform Plus (our subscription tool that provides data  at smaller areas) and share the reports with you.

Census 2021 – at a glance

Census Day 21 March 2021
Person response rate 97%
Proportion of responses online 88.9%
Usual resident population of England and Wales 59,597,300
Total households in England and Wales 24,782,800
Largest usual resident population (county council) Kent – 1,576,100
Largest usual resident population (single tier authority) Birmingham – 1,144,900
Largest usual resident population (district council) Colchester – 192,700
Increase in population from 2011 to 2021 3.5 million (6.3%)
Local authority area with largest increase in population from 2011 Tower Hamlets  – 22.1%

​Visit www.ons.gov.uk to find out more about Census 2021

LG Inform is the local area benchmarking tool from the LGA, providing themed reports and comparative data sets on a variety of topics including housing, planning and building control, environment and climate change, business and the economy, children’s and adults’ social care, public health, deprivation and poverty, demographics and Census 2021.


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