OSR has completed a quality-focused assessment on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) output on Profitability of UK companies and Gross Operating Surplus of UK private non-financial corporations (GOS).

This is the second assessment OSR has carried out as part of the new Spotlight on Quality: Assuring Confidence in Economic Statistics programme, which provides enhanced assurance of the UK’s economic statistics.

These are high profile economic statistics used by a range of key institutions such as the Bank of England, the Office for Budget Responsibility and HM Treasury for setting monetary and fiscal policies. OSR also recognises that ONS is one of only a few National Statistical Institutes that produces annual GOS statistics directly, as many countries derive these statistics as a residual balancing item of the GDP income approach.

The report sets five requirements to improve the quality of Profitability of UK companies and GOS statistics. Most important among these is that ONS needs to demonstrate a better understanding of whether the data sources used to compile the estimates are of sufficient quality. Additionally, ONS needs to better communicate to users its understanding of the methods and data sources used, along with any limitations and uncertainties in the statistics.

ONS has agreed to publish a development plan by the end of this month that includes its priorities for improving these statistics. OSR expects ONS to make significant progress on some of these requirements by late summer and the remaining requirements by the end of this calendar year. ONS has also helpfully published revised Quality and Methodology Information and the GOS growth rates including and excluding balancing adjustments.

These actions will ensure that the statistics continue to comply with the highest standards of the Code of Practice for Statistics. OSR has already noted the progress ONS has made with HM Revenue and Customs as the main data supplier in compiling GOS estimates.

OSR recognises that many of the messages from this report may also apply to other economic statistics within the National Accounts. The report therefore encourages ONS to consider how the findings and recommendations apply to other economic statistics.

Ed Humpherson, DG Regulation said:

“The ONS team has been extremely co-operative during our assessment. Our work has found a number of strengths in the production of these important statistics.

But for statistics like these, the quality of the data sources is key to confirm accreditation that complies with the Code of Practice for Statistics, so we want to see ONS pay more attention to the nature and limitations of the inputs it is using.”

Notes to Editors

  1. OSR provides independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK. We aim to enhance public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics produced by government.


  1. OSR does this by setting the standards they must meet in the Code of Practice for Statistics. We ensure that producers of government statistics uphold these standards by conducting assessments against the Code.


  1. Part of our role as the statistics regulator is to investigate concerns on the quality, good practice and comprehensiveness of official statistics. It is not our role to moderate public discourse.


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