Appointment of two new Non-Executive Directors to the UK Statistics Authority Board

Richard Dobbs and Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter have have been appointed as non-executive board members of the UK Statistics Authority for a period of three years, commencing today (Wednesday 27 May 2020).

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Richard and David as non-executive members of the UK Statistics Authority Board. Richard brings to the Board strong insight into global economic trends, and David is one of our leading experts in the communication of statistics and risk particularly in relation to health. Both have been strong advocates for the power of data and evidence to help people. The Board and I are very much looking forward to working with both of our new members.”

Richard Dobbs said:

“I am delighted and honoured to be appointed to the Board at this challenging time. The Office for National Statistics is already providing us all with deep insights on the COVID-19 pandemic. As we emerge from the crisis the ONS and the UK Statistics Authority will play a pivotal role in helping policymakers, companies and citizens navigate the new normal.”

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically highlighted the importance of timely and trustworthy statistics, and I am so pleased that I am going to have the opportunity to help in the UK Statistics Authority’s vital work.”

 

 

Related links

Biography of Richard Dobbs

Biography of Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter

 

Further information

The UK Statistics Authority is an independent body operating at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

The Authority’s statutory objective is to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. It is also required to promote and safeguard the quality and comprehensiveness of official statistics and ensure good practice in relation to official statistics.

COVID-19 surveillance and registered deaths data review

Updated 14 May 2020

Information available on COVID-19 cases and deaths has been developed rapidly in a constantly shifting environment. The work being done by analysts to get this information into the public domain is commendable. There will always be a desire for improvements to the timeliness and completeness of data, but this should not undermine the huge efforts being made by individuals and organisations to deliver timely data to support decision making and inform the public.

Our vision is statistics that serve the public good. We aim to support producers of statistics and data to achieve this while championing the needs of the public. We have undertaken a short review of the data releases on COVID-19 cases and deaths – at a UK level and for each country within the UK – to help understanding of the available sources and to highlight strengths and our view on areas for improvement. This document outlines the findings from our review, that is necessarily only a snapshot of what are very fast-moving developments.

In reviewing the various statistical outputs, we have been guided by the three pillars of the Code of Practice for Statistics: Trustworthiness, Quality and Value. Trustworthiness refers the governance that surrounds the production of statistics; Quality refers to the characteristics of the data; and Value considers the extent to which the statistics answer users’ questions.

Summary of findings

There have been many developments to the data and supporting information available on COVID-19. Analysts have made huge efforts to deliver the information and have shown a willingness to address concerns and make rapid improvements.

There is great value in having timely data, such as the daily surveillance data covering the UK that is published less than 24 hours after the data reporting period. It provides an important leading indicator of the trend in COVID-19 testing, cases and deaths, which is essential to inform operational decisions being made at pace. However, the speed at which these data are made available means there has been a trade off with completeness, and the limitations of the UK data have not been fully explained.

The nature and extent of the uncertainty around the UK estimates of deaths associated with COVID-19 has not so far been made clear. However, we are aware of efforts being made to improve the clarity and transparency of the material that accompanies the daily briefing, including drawing on support from the Government Statistical Service (GSS).

In contrast, the weekly death statistics published for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland provide a more complete measure of the number of deaths associated with COVID-19, but these statistics are released with a greater time lag.

ONS’s publication of its forward workplans in this area is a helpful development for stakeholders and it is important that other nations provide detail about their plans to keep users of the statistics informed. We understand that the GSS is considering the accessibility of all the information on COVID-19 to allow users to navigate all outputs from a central hub, such as the GSS health and care statistics landscape.

Areas for further development

  1. It is important to maintain public confidence and trustworthiness of statistics that are used to inform public debate. The nature and extent of the uncertainty around the UK estimates of deaths associated with COVID-19 should be clarified.
  2. All statistics producers should show they are actively considering the diverse and changing user need for COVID-19 statistics, by publishing detailed plans for improvements, for example, information about the occupancy of intensive care units or beds, or on person characteristics, such as ethnicity.
  3. The GSS should consider the accessibility of the information and allow users to navigate all COVID-19 related outputs from a central hub, such as the GSS landscape.

Consultation on the future of the Retail Prices Index

The UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury have today announced that they will be extending the time period for the current joint consultation on the future of the Retail Prices Index, in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

With businesses and individuals focused on mitigating the challenges that this public health and economic emergency has created, the UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury agree that they cannot currently conclude a meaningful consultation on this matter.

The new closing date for the consultation will be 21 August. We will continue to accept responses throughout the extended period. The Authority will resume proactive engagement, including events, as circumstances allow. A response to the consultation will now be published in Autumn 2020.

An exchange of letters between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority on this matter is available below.

Related Links:

Sir David Norgrove to Chancellor of the Exchequer (April 2020)

Chancellor of the Exchequer to Sir David Norgrove (April 2020)

Consultation on the Reform to Retail Prices Index (RPI) Methodology

Statement from the Office for Statistics Regulation – COVID-19 Update

We welcome the work of analysts across a range of organisations in providing the public with information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pace at which these organisations have set up new data collection and dissemination processes has been unprecedented and enabled timely updates on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. We warmly congratulate all those who are contributing to this effort.

Estimates for the number of cases and deaths for the whole UK are being published and each of the four nations within the UK should continue to collaborate to enable UK reporting as statistics are developed further.

In our discussions with producers of statistics, we have seen a commitment to continuously improve the information provided to the public. Following these discussions, there have been improvements to provide greater clarity, including:

  • clarification of what the daily figures published by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) do and do not include (those who have died in hospitals and who have tested positive for COVID-19);
  • improvements to the supporting information on the Public Health England (PHE) dashboard, including clearer explanation of the sources and coverage of these figures;
  • explanation in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) weekly deaths statistics of how COVID-19 related deaths impact on the figures;
  • clarification of how ONS and DHSC figures relate to each other through the joint statement published by DHSC and ONS;
  • cessation of publication of a “patients recovered” figure by Public Health England because of data quality limitations.

Clear explanations of what the data mean for Northern Ireland and the commitment to regular publication times in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also support user confidence.

It is important that statistics producers continue to enhance the information available to the public. We have been assured that statistics producers are working to make developments, including:

  • further breakdowns of the data and more information about hospital admissions;
  • more information on the capacity of and demands on the health system, building on the analysis of NHS 111 calls published by NHS Digital;
  • further explanation of how the figures from the UK’s four nations compare to one another;
  • and, in the medium term, greater information about the demographic characteristics of people who are confirmed as having or having had COVID-19.

COVID-19 and the UK Statistics System

Commenting on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove has today said:

“The UK’s statistical system is continuing to serve the public good in the face of the challenges posed by the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) have set out plans to ensure that their work continues and adapts at a time when good evidence is more important than ever.”

Related Links:

Statement from the Office for National Statistics: COVID-19 and the production of statistics

Statement from the Office for Statistics Regulation: COVID-19 and the regulation of statistics

Sir Ian Diamond’s letter to Ed Humperson regarding changes to statistical production and publication as a result of COVID-19 (March 2020)

Ed Humpherson’s response to Sir Ian Diamond (March 2020)

Ed Humpherson’s blog post on Covid-19 and the regulation of statistics (March 2020)

Sir David Norgrove letter to Matt Hancock (May 2020) and Matt Hancock’s response  (May 2020)

Sir David Norgrove letter to Matt Hancock (June 2020) and Matt Hancock’s response  ( June 2020)

COVID-19: Production and use of management information by government and other official bodies

 

COVID-19 and the regulation of statistics

Today, The Director General for Statistics Regulation has made the following statement:

“This is a very difficult time for everyone as the UK adjusts to rapid changes in society and the economy. The priority is to protect the health and safety of individuals – including through changing working patterns and practices – and to support the information needs of society.

“Organisations that produce official statistics are rightly showing flexibility and adapting what they collect and publish to respond to this new environment. The Office for Statistics Regulation fully supports this flexibility and the responsiveness shown by producers of statistics.

“We have prepared a package of measures including guidance on factors that producers should consider when making changes to data collection, statistics production and release. We have also set out an approach to rapid regulatory reviews, potentially including National Statistics status, for any new outputs published by producers which inform the public about the coronavirus and its economic and social impacts. We will support sensible changes to existing production practices.”

Joint consultation on the future of the RPI launched by UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury

In March 2019, UK Statistics Authority recommended to the Chancellor that the shortcomings of the RPI be addressed by bringing the methods and data sources of CPIH into it.

Today The Authority and HM Treasury have launched a joint Consultation on the timing and method of bringing CPIH methods and data sources into the RPI.

HM Treasury will be consulting on the appropriate timing for the proposed changes to the RPI to take place while the UK Statistics Authority will consult on how to make its proposed methodological changes to the RPI in a way that follows best statistical practice.

The consultation will run from today – 11 March – until Wednesday 22 April.

Commenting, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove said:

“The role of the UK Statistics Authority is to promote and safeguard official statistics.

“I, my predecessors and successive National Statisticians have been clear that the RPI is not a good measure, at times significantly overestimating inflation and at other times underestimating it. However, the RPI is unique as we need consent from the Chancellor to make certain changes, such as the one we have proposed.

“We are seeking feedback from the widest range of users on our proposed method of bringing the methods and data sources of our most comprehensive inflation measure, CPIH, to the RPI.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The consultation page is available here

Today’s letter (11 March 2020) from Sir David Norgrove to Lord Forsyth is available here

The UK Statistics Authority’s previous statement on the future of the RPI, published in September, is available here

A previously published article, setting out the shortcomings of the Retail Prices Index is available here

The full recommendations from the UK Statistics Authority to the Chancellor can be found here

UK Statistics Authority Statement on the future of the RPI

The Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices provided advice to the National Statistician on the composition of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in light of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report Measuring Inflation, published in January 2019.

Taking account of that advice, the then National Statistician concluded that the current position was unsatisfactory and put options for the future of the RPI to the UK Statistics Authority Board on 26 February 2019.

After receiving this advice, Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote on behalf of the Board to the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March 2019 with the following recommendations:

  • that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
  • in the interim, the shortcomings of the RPI should be addressed by bringing the methods of the CPIH into it.

Today the Chancellor has announced his intention to consult on whether to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI between 2025 and 2030, effectively aligning the measures. The UK Statistics Authority will consult on the method of making this change.

Speaking today, Sir David said:

“The role of the UK Statistics Authority is to promote and safeguard official statistics.

“We have been clear that the RPI is not a good measure, at times significantly overestimating inflation and at other times underestimating it, and have consistently urged all – in Government and the private sector – to stop using it. However, the RPI is unique as we need consent from the Chancellor to make certain changes, such as the one we have proposed.

“Although we regret that no change will occur before 2025, we welcome the Chancellor’s intention to consult on resolving current issues with the RPI.

“We continue to urge the Government and others to cease to use the RPI. It would be wrong for the Government to continue to use a measure of inflation which it itself accepts is flawed, where it has the opportunity to change.”


 

Notes to Editors

  1. Under Section 21 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, before making any change to the coverage or the basic calculation of the RPI, the UK Statistics Authority must consult the Bank of England. Where proposed changes to the RPI are deemed material and detrimental to relevant gilt holders by the Bank of England, changes cannot be made without the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  2. Under Section 21, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Governor of the Bank of England on 18 February and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March, proposing:
    1. that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
    2. in the interim, that shortcomings of the RPI be addressed, by bringing the methods of the CPIH into the index.
  3. His letters drew both on the formal advice of the UK’s National Statistician, and on the advice of the National Statistician’s Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices.
  4. The Bank of England responded on 4 March to confirm changes proposed were material and detrimental to holders of relevant gilts.
  5. Following the appointment of a new Chancellor, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP on 30 July 2019, highlighting the importance of the issue and the need to resolve at the earliest practical occasion.
  6. The Chancellor responded to the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals on 4 September 2019. In his response, the Chancellor announced his intention to consult on the timing of when to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI, effectively aligning the measures, to give users time to prepare for the many complex effects such a change will have.
  7. Sir David has responded to the Chancellor welcoming the intention to consult, while expressing regret that no change will occur before 2025.  He has also urged users to cease using the RPI.
  8. In 2030 the requirement for the Authority to consult the Chancellor before making changes to the coverage or calculation of the RPI falls away.
  9. While the current Authority Board cannot commit its successors, the statistical weaknesses of the RPI make it unlikely that the Authority would take a different view from our recommendations in 2030
  10. The Authority has also published its response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

 

 

Ian Diamond appointed as UK’s National Statistician

Her Majesty the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister, has appointed Professor Sir Ian Diamond as National Statistician. Sir Ian succeeds John Pullinger, who retired at the end of June.

The National Statistician is the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, Permanent Secretary of the Office for National Statistics and Head of the Government Statistical Service. As Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Ian will be an executive member of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority.

Sir Ian’s career spans many areas of social and official statistics. Most recently, he served as Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, and prior to that held the role of Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy, Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of Social Sciences.

Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, warmly welcomed Sir Ian’s appointment:

“I am delighted that we have appointed Sir Ian as the UK Statistics Authority’s new Chief Executive and National Statistician. Ian brings with him enormous professional experience and particular expertise in census design and analysis.

“I would like to record my warm thanks for John Pullinger’s exemplary leadership of the Statistical Service over the last five years as National Statistician before his recent retirement. We have valued enormously John’s professional wise counsel and wish him well for the future.”

The Chief Executive of the Civil Service, John Manzoni, said:

“I would like to congratulate Sir Ian on his appointment. With his considerable standing in the statistics community and talent for analysing large and complex data on population stastistics, I am sure he will provide strong direction for the UK Statistics Authority and Office for National Statistics.

I would also like to thank John Pullinger for his excellent work over the last five years and wish him all the very best for the future”

On the announcement of his appointment by Her Majesty the Queen, Sir Ian Diamond said:

“The UK’s statistical system is one admired world-over and it is an enormous privilege to have been appointed as the UK’s National Statistician. I’m looking forward to building on the work of John Pullinger, as we make use of rich new data sources to deliver the data decision-makers across the UK need.

“I’m particularly excited to be working with staff across the Office for National Statistics and the Government Statistical Service, as we empower our partners in Parliament, academia, business and beyond with trusted and quality data.”

 

Notes to editors:

Professor Sir Ian David Diamond, FBA, FRSE, FAcSS is the former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen. Previous roles include Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, Chair of the Research Councils UK Executive Group and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Southampton. Sir Ian served as chairman of the Social Security Advisory Committee from August 2018 until his appointment as National Statistician. He also served as a non-executive director at the UK Statistics Authority Board until his appointment as National Statistician.

Sir Ian will join as National Statistician on a full-time basis on 22 October 2019. In the intervening period, he will be working to familiarise himself with staff, stakeholders and the statistical system.

Announcement of an interim National Statistician

The current National Statistician John Pullinger is due to leave his post on 30 June.

The UK Statistics Authority Board has asked the Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, Jonathan Athow, to cover the role in the interim.

The announcement of a new National Statistician will be made later in the summer.

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