Office for National Statistics
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the government executive agency charged with the collection and publication of statistics related to the economy, population and society of the United Kingdom at national and local levels.
The ONS was formed on 1 April 1996 by the merger of the Central Statistical Office, the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), and the statistical divisions of the (now defunct) Department of Employment.
The ONS has a head office in Pimlico, London with other offices in Newport (South Wales), Titchfield (Hampshire) and Southport. Following the Lyons Review on public sector relocation, the Newport office will become the head office and the London office will cut to be approximately half its current size.
Additionally, there is the Family Records Office in Islington, London where censuses over 100 years old and indexes to the registers of births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales may be consulted, and copies of census entries and certificates can be purchased.
Heads of the Office
Directors are de facto Permanent Secretaries but do not use that title. As the ONS incorporates the OPCS, the Director is also the Registrar General for England and Wales. In addition, he or she is ex officio the Head of the Government Statistical Service. The first Director of ONS was Tim Holt. Subsequent Directors have had an additional title, the National Statistician. The second Director was Len Cook. He was succeeded by Karen Dunnell on 1 September 2005.
Work of the ONS
Where data is broken down by geographical area, this is usually done by the areas defined in the ONS geographical coding system.
The principal areas of data collection are:
- Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry
- Commerce, Energy and Industry
- Crime and Justice
- Education and Training
- Health and Care
- Labour Market
- Natural and Built Environment
- Population and Migration
- Public Sector and Other
- Social and Welfare
- Transport, Travel and Tourism
It should be noted that statisticians are to be found in many other Government departments and agencies, and these statisticians often collect and publish data. For example, data on Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry come primarily from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Most publications can be downloaded free, and it is possible to create customised downloads too.
Criticism of the ONS
The Office for National Statistics won the 2004 Big Brother Award for the "Most Heinous Government Organisation" from the campaigning organisation Privacy International for its Citizen Information Project. The project is one of several that lead the Government's own Information Commissioner to warn that there is a danger of the country "sleepwalking" into a surveillance society.