Mark Pont to Ken Roy (Defra), Ingrid Baber (SEPA), Stephanie Howarth (Welsh Government) and Conor McCormack (DAERA): Local Authority Collected Waste Management statistics

Dear all,

Local Authority Collected Waste Management statistics

We have reviewed compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics of the four sets of waste statistics published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA):

We reviewed the trustworthiness, quality and value of the statistics, including the coherence of the data source, methods and quality assurance (QA) arrangements, and the presentation of the statistics.

I am pleased to confirm that the statistics for England, Wales and Northern Ireland can continue to be designated as National Statistics. The statistics for Scotland are not currently designated as National Statistics; they are official statistics. We carried out a more comprehensive review of the Scottish statistics and gathered feedback from a small number of users to support their continued development towards National Statistics status.

The waste statistics are one of the key sets of environment statistics. They provide high-quality information about the volume of waste generated and recycled at the local authority level. As waste and recycling are primarily local issues, this level of granularity is essential. The statistics and data are also important at the national level, as they are used to monitor progress against waste and recycling targets. Issues relating to resources and waste, in particular, plastic pollution, continue to be a focus of public interest and debate on the environment and these waste statistics contribute to public understanding of these issues.

Our key findings and recommendations across all sets of statistics are presented below. Detailed findings by country are presented in Annex A. We encourage you, where relevant, to reflect on the findings for other countries, to learn from their approaches and practices.

We identified several shared strengths:

  • All local authorities submit waste data through the WasteDataFlow (WDF) Data are entered and processed in a standardised way, generating a robust data series on household waste for each country, although countries define and categorise waste slightly differently. Most countries have introduced a more flexible question format which allows local authorities to report more accurate and complete information on waste treatment and disposal.
  • All countries maintain strong, constructive relationships with data suppliers (local authorities). For instance, Defra and SEPA hold regular WDF user group meetings, which provide a forum for discussing data quality issues and developments and gathering feedback on the statistics from local authorities. It is good that you each took into consideration the resource pressures that local authorities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting them where necessary (for example, by extending data submission deadlines), and that you have are adapting your QA checks to ensure that data quality remains high. We welcome this ongoing, proactive engagement with data suppliers, who are also key users of the statistics.
  • In general, the four countries collaborate closely when collecting waste data and producing waste statistics. For instance, all countries are represented on the WDF Operational Group, which meets annually to discuss methodology and processes as well as ad hoc WDF and local authority statistics issues. We also heard how statisticians worked together to develop the harmonised UK household waste measure (‘waste from households’) and are currently collaborating on developing a new waste tracking system (see below).
  • The ‘waste from households’ measure, which is used by UK and Devolved Governments to monitor and report compliance with the EU’s Waste Framework Directive recycling targets, allows users to compare recycling rates between UK countries. Defra presents a summary of this measure in a separate bulletin, UK Statistics on Waste, but some countries also comment on trends in the ‘waste from households’ measure in their bulletins and explain how it differs from country-specific household waste measures.
  • Defra, with the support of governments and regulators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is leading the development of a new, innovative electronic waste tracking system. It aims to create a single point of reference for a waste transaction that can be used by all four countries. The new system will likely replace existing waste data collections, including WDF, and is expected to fill known information gaps (such as on what happens to waste when it moves from production to recovery or disposal, and flows between recycling facilities) and improve the coherence of waste definitions across the UK.

We also have some general recommendations and suggestions for improvements across all sets of statistics:

  • The credibility of recycling is dependent on final overseas destinations. There is still confusion among the public about where the UK’s recycling goes, with a significant quantity of some types of material being shipped abroad for recycling. To support public understanding of recycling, we recommend that waste statisticians in all four countries work together to produce an accompanying “explainer” on how waste is defined as having being recycled and how it counts towards the headline recycling rate. We think it would be helpful if it also summarises the main definitional differences in recycling rates between countries and explains why figures based on the harmonised measure do not always match up across different outputs, for instance, due to data revisions.
  • To enhance transparency around user engagement, and encourage further engagement from users, we recommend publishing a summary of existing and planned user engagement activities. It should explain how you are listening to users and acting on their views to develop the statistics. You may like to consult our review of user engagement in the Defra Group to inform your thinking in this area. We encourage you to share learning and insight from user engagement with waste statisticians in the other countries.
  • COVID has impacted many local authorities’ waste collections and waste data submissions. This is expected to have knock-on effects on the statistics, especially the volume of waste generated and recycled. It is important that you understand the effects of COVID on data quality and trends in the statistics and explain these to users.
  • The new accessibility regulations for public sector bodies came into force on 23 September 2020. You should ensure that your outputs, including the statistics bulletins, and statistics landing pages meet these requirements and reflect on any additional steps you could take to make your statistics more accessible to users, in line with the Code of Practice.

Our Agriculture, Energy and Environment team will continue to engage with you in the coming months to follow up on the highlighted areas for improvement. We thank you and your teams for your positive engagement throughout the review process.

I am copying this letter to Alex Clothier, Katherine Merrett and Andrew Woodend (Defra), Peter Ferrett (SEPA), Stuart Neil (Welsh Government), and Siobhan Carey (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency).

Yours sincerely

Mark Pont

Assessment Programme Lead


Annex A: Key findings and recommendations by country

Local Authority Collected Waste Management Statistics for England (Defra)


  • The team has a good understanding of the main users and uses of the statistics and interacts with users and other stakeholders in a range of ways. It has a strong working relationship with Defra policy colleagues, as evidenced by close collaboration during the response to the pandemic. It engages with industry bodies, waste management consultancies and local authorities through a resources and waste data group, which meets regularly to discuss use of waste data for infrastructure planning. The team also engages with organisations such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on specific data issues. We welcome that different types of users are involved in the development of the data and statistics.
  • The bulletin is well-structured and engaging, with impartial commentary that explains the main differences and trends in the statistics. Relevant new content continues to be added to the bulletin, for example, on final waste destinations. The visualisations are effective and aid interpretation of the statistics. The maps are particularly informative, illustrating the variation in recycling rate, and how it has changed since the previous year, across England.
  • The methodology summary published alongside the statistics contains a good overview of the WDF system and highlights its main limitations. It explains the nature of changes in methods and their impact on the statistics. Definitions of the three reported measures of household waste are clear and highlighted prominently throughout the bulletin, supporting understanding for non-expert users. We are pleased that the team has been using our Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) framework to review QA arrangements and welcome the level of detail published about the QA process.

Areas for improvement

  • To gain further insight into user needs and uses of the statistics, the team could be more proactive in its user engagement. For instance, it could attempt to identify and engage with potential users of the statistics, including academics.
  • To ensure that the information on the statistics landing pages is current and helpful, we recommend refreshing all landing pages. The pages would benefit from more information on what the waste data are and why they are collected. For instance, to highlight their wider relevance and importance, we suggest adding an overview of or links to the key waste policies in England, including the Resources and Waste Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan. The Defra air quality and emissions statistics landing page provides a good example of how to do this.
  • To enable users to easily explore the rich dataset and facilitate re-use of the data, the team may like to consider developing an interactive dashboard or data tool like those DAERA or SEPA have developed.
  • The UK Statistics on Waste bulletin highlights the extent to which England is meeting its waste and recycling targets. We think it would be helpful if the local authority collected waste management bulletin also commented on this aspect of the statistics.
  • The waste data collection process in England is more complex than in other UK countries due to the large number of local authorities and the involvement of a contractor (Jacobs). To help users understand the flow of data through the system, the team could add a process map that illustrates the different stages and QA arrangements.
  • We encourage the team to explore the feasibility of developing a metric like SEPA’s carbon metric, which measures the whole-life carbon impact of waste. Such a measure would add insight on waste’s contribution to climate change in England.

Household waste statistics for Scotland (Scottish Environment Protection Agency)


  • The team engages effectively with users inside and outside government and employs a range of approaches to understand use and listen to users. It works closely with policy teams in SEPA and analysts in the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland. It also engages regularly with academics and industry bodies through Scotland Waste Data Strategy activities. In 2019, the team conducted a user survey to better understand the users of the waste statistics, their views on the presentation and content of the statistics bulletins, and to identify gaps in their needs. We encourage the team to continue this proactive engagement to ensure that the statistics are relevant and insightful for all types of users.
  • The Waste Data Strategy hub on Scotland’s Environment web, maintained by the statistics team, is an excellent repository of waste-related information in Scotland. It brings together news and updates, documents from user events, guidance, case studies and data. The two interactive data tools on the website aid interpretation of the statistics by allowing users to produce customisable charts and data sets.
  • The users we spoke to told us they valued the statistics bulletins and datasets as the provide fixed points of reference which reduce the risk of misinterpretation. The bulletins give a good overview of the short- and medium-term trends in the statistics. The commentary is impartial and reasons for changes are discussed. Information about waste policies, regulations and targets in the quality report and on the SEPA website is clear and helpful.
  • The carbon metric, which measures the whole-life carbon impact of waste, is innovative, insightful and well-established, giving an indication of waste’s contribution to climate change in Scotland. We look forward to seeing the continued refinement of this valuable metric.
  • The QA process for the data is rigorous and continually improving. The users we spoke to recognise the effort the team invests in maintaining data quality. The team recently conducted a survey to better understand the QA principles, standards and checks undertaken by local authorities, which provided useful insight. It is also good that the team developed an automated data validation tool for local authorities to improve and standardise the level of QA.

Areas for improvement

  • It important to be transparent about the outcomes of individual user engagement activities. We think it would be helpful to reinforce user engagement by publishing a summary of responses to the 2019 user survey, explaining how the team intends to respond to feedback and improve the statistics.
  • The accessibility of the waste statistics landing pages and other waste pages on the SEPA website needs to be enhanced. These pages are not as user-friendly as they could be for non-expert users and information across pages is often inconsistent or out-of-date. For example, the publication calendar on the household waste data page confuses the ‘date when published’ with the reporting period and the links on the waste statistics regulations page are old or broken. All pages would benefit from a content review and refresh. Also, the users we spoke to told us the team may assume a higher level of user knowledge than is realistic. The team should consider the needs of different types of users when producing the bulletins, data tables and quality report to ensure that the information is accessible to non-expert users.
  • To make users aware of the coherence and comparability of the Scottish statistics with those produced by the other UK countries, we think it would be helpful to report and comment on trends in waste and recycling calculated using the harmonised UK ‘waste from households’ measure. The insight and relevance of the household waste bulletin could be enhanced by commenting on the extent to which the Scottish Government is meeting its waste and recycling targets.
  • The most recent edition of the quality report (covering 2017 data) was published in July 2019, a year and a half after the end of the reporting period. To ensure that quality and methods information is timely and supports interpretation of the statistics at the time they are published, it should be published alongside the statistics. The quality report should also explain how the carbon metric is calculated and describe the strengths and limitations of the approach used.
  • Published information about QA arrangements is limited. We recommend that the team apply our Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) framework and publish a summary of its findings to assure users of the comprehensive QA process. It should map the flow of data through the system to help users understand the quality at all stages of the production process. We encourage the team to publish a summary of findings from the QA survey of local authorities as part of this documentation, to highlight the variation in approaches and data quality.
  • The list of recipients with pre-release access (PRA) should be published on the SEPA website and be reviewed regularly.

Local Authority Municipal Waste Management Statistics for Wales (Welsh Government)


  • The statistics landing page is user-friendly and explains why waste data are collected and where they come from. All data are published on the StatsWales website, which allows users to produce and download customised data and tables and charts. Metadata, summarising the main limitations and caveats, are published alongside the data tables and charts to help users interpret the statistics.
  • The annual bulletin is well-structured and captures the main trends in the statistics. It highlights the extent to which the Welsh Government is meeting its waste and recycling targets and contains links to related Welsh statistics and waste statistics from the rest of the UK. The information boxes spread throughout the bulletin define the key terms and measures and explain potential inconsistencies in the data.
  • Changes in data quality, such as the improvement in data accuracy which led to a recent revision in the recycling rate, are explained in the quality report. The quality report also highlights potential sources of bias in the data due to, for example, the splitting out of household and non-household waste (which some local authorities collect together).

Areas for improvement

  • Apart from a 2017 user consultation on changes to outputs, we found little evidence of proactive engagement with users, particularly those outside government. To ensure that the statistics are relevant and insightful for all types of users, the team should aim to establish an ongoing dialogue with a range of users and involve them in the development of the statistics.
  • The insight of the bulletin commentary could be enhanced by discussing reasons for changes over time. The bulletin, quality report and statistics landing page would benefit from more-detailed information or links on waste policy in Wales and the rest of the UK, to help users contextualise the statistics.
  • We encourage the team to explore the feasibility of developing a metric like SEPA’s carbon metric, which measures the whole-life carbon impact of waste. Such a measure would add insight on waste’s contribution to climate change in Wales.
  • Three organisations are responsible for the management of waste data and engagement with data suppliers in Wales – the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The roles and responsibilities of each organisation, and how they work together to deliver high quality data, should be explained,
  • To support user understanding of the data source (WDF) and methods, we think it would be helpful to explain how the statistics are calculated from the data submitted by local authorities. This should cover the question format and how it has changed over time to enable collection of more granular information on end destinations of waste.
  • The quality report contains a basic description of QA arrangements, but the level of detail is not proportionate to the complexity of the data. For example, it does not cover the checks and validation carried out by local authorities. To reassure users about data quality, the team should produce more-thorough documentation that maps the flow of data through the system. It may like to consult DAERA’s Administrative Data Source Quality Report for an example of this.

Northern Ireland Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste Management Statistics (DAERA)


  • We welcome that the team has applied the learning from our compliance check of the Northern Ireland June Agricultural Census statistics to other DAERA statistics, including the waste management statistics, to enhance their quality and value. Recent improvements have focused on making the statistics and data more accessible and reusable for a wide range of users through the development of new outputs (such as infographics, an interactive dashboard and a time series dataset), and improving and publishing more-detailed information about QA arrangements (see below). It demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement.
  • We are pleased to see recent proactive engagement with external users of the statistics, for example, through a workshop in early 2020. This provided valuable information on how the statistics are used and feedback on the presentation of the statistics, which is being used to drive improvements. The team has also promoted the statistics via the DAERA statistics user group newsletter, created to inform users during the pandemic. We encourage the team to continue building its network of external users and involve them in the development of the statistics.
  • The annual bulletin is informative and engaging, providing a coherent overview of waste and recycling in Northern Ireland. It presents estimates of the recycling rate using both the Northern Ireland household waste definition and the harmonised UK measure (‘Waste from Households’) and helpfully compares the recycling rates between UK countries. It contains clear descriptions of relevant policies and detailed and impartial commentary on progress against waste and recycling targets.
  • The published quality information is comprehensive. In addition to the clear descriptions of data sources and methods in the annual bulletin, an Administrative Data Source Quality Report is published which discusses in depth the WDF system and the quality assurance arrangements at all stages of the production process, including the checks and validation carried out by local authorities, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency data control team and the statistics team.

Areas for improvement

  • To enhance the usefulness of the Administrative Data Source Quality Report, a process map illustrating the flow of data through the system could be added. To help users contextualise the data, key quality and methods information, including limitations and caveats, could be added to the interactive dashboard and datasets.
  • We encourage the team to explore the feasibility of developing a metric like SEPA’s carbon metric, which measures the whole-life carbon impact of waste. Such a measure would add insight on waste’s contribution to climate change in Northern Ireland.

Ed Humpherson to Ken Roy: Confirmation of NS designation for Defra statistics on air quality and emissions of air pollutants

Dear Ken 


We have reviewed the actions that your team has taken to address the requirements in Assessment Report number 344Statistics on Air Quality and Emissions of Air Pollutants 

 On behalf of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, I am pleased to confirm the continued designation of National Statistics for the air quality and emissions of air pollutants statistics 

 These statistics are valuable because they support understanding of air pollution – major environmental threat to human health in the UK. They inform the development of policies that aim to improve air quality by reducing emissions of air pollutants. The statistics provide a good overview of trends over time in the concentration of air pollutants and the relative contribution of different sources of emissions of air pollutants.  

 The team responsible for producing the statistics has responded very positively to the Requirements of our report. The team has made changes that enhance the coherence, accessibility and clarity and insight of the statistics and data for a wide range of users. We are particularly pleased with the more joined-up presentation of the two sets of statistics, and with the progress made on developing a local air quality data warehousewhich will maximise access to, and the value of, these data for specialist users. In some areas, the team went beyond the Requirements and implemented additional changes, such as converting the statistics bulletins to HTML format. We welcome the team’s commitment to continuous improvement. 

 We have included more detail about our judgement in an annex to this letter. I, or my team, would be happy to talk you or your colleagues through any aspects of this letter or Code compliance more generally.  

 National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value and is something to be celebrated. We welcome that you already publish a statement alongside the statistics which reflects the National Statistics status, and we encourage you to update this on an ongoing basis as you continue to develop the statistics. 

 I am copying this letter to Philip Taylor, the responsible statistician.  

 Yours sincerely  


Ed Humpherson 

Director General for Regulation 


Related Links

Statistics on air quality and emissions of air pollutants

Ed Humpherson to Ken Roy: User engagement in the Defra Group

Dear Ken

User engagement in the Defra Group

Today we published the findings of our review of user engagement in the Defra Group[1].

The aims of the review were to develop a better understanding of the range of approaches to user engagement currently adopted within the Defra Group, and to identify the key features of effective and impactful user engagement.

We identified many examples of good practice and are encouraged by the extent to which teams are engaging with users. We found that many teams promote their statistics and tell users about changes to the statistics, that they have a good understanding of the types of users and uses and that they engage regularly with well-established networks of known users in a variety of ways. We also welcome that the Defra Group is taking a joined-up, strategic approach to user engagement to gain insight into users and uses and to encourage and foster user engagement within the department.

We also identified several ways in which user engagement could be improved or enhanced. Some teams could be more proactive in their engagement by seeking the views of users and other stakeholders and exploring a range of ways of involving them in the production and development of the statistics. Teams could enhance transparency and demonstrate their knowledge of the types of users and uses, and the extent of their engagement, by publishing information about users, uses and user engagement activities. As a whole, the Defra Group could be more strategic and impactful by encouraging and supporting teams in their user engagement and could continue to build its capability in areas like social media and web analytics to enhance communication with users and develop understanding of use.

We recognise that the last few years have been particularly challenging for the Defra Group in terms of resourcing, due to preparation for EU exit, and more recently, COVID-19. It is right that your short-term focus is on maintaining official statistics outputs and prioritising analysis that supports understanding of the effects of COVID-19 on food, farming and the environment. This means the coming year will not be a normal time for statistics production and there may limited scope or capacity for enhancing user engagement. While the recommendations in this report should be seen as a reference point for more normal times, some recommendations are achievable in the short term, and we encourage you and your teams to consult this report on an ongoing basis.

I would like to thank all individuals in the Defra Group who gave up their time to contribute to this review for their open and positive engagement with my team. I look forward to future engagement with you and your statistics teams as you enhance your user engagement.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

[1] By the Defra group we mean the Core Department and Executive Agencies, Forestry Commission and those Defra Arm’s Length bodies that are designated as producers of official statistics: Environment Agency, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Marine Management Organisation and Natural England.


Related links:

User engagement in the Defra Group

Compliance Check: Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) Statistics

Dear Ken


Thank you for your letter outlining Natural England’s plans for its new People and Nature Survey, the replacement for the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) Survey. You intend to publish the first statistics from the new survey as experimental statistics, with a view to putting them forward for assessment shortly after publication.

We have undertaken a compliance check to look at the transition to the new survey. Given the proposed changes, we have focused on the quality of the MENE data and statistics. However, through our conversations with the MENE team we also learned about the value and trustworthiness of the statistics.

We summarise our main findings below, and highlight some things you might like to consider as part of developing the new statistics.

New method

While the new survey has similar objectives to MENE, the move to an online panel method for data collection is a major departure. As far as we know, they will be the first official statistics based on data collected through an online panel. This presents an opportunity to innovate but also some potential challenges to the quality and trustworthiness of the statistics. We agree that the People and Nature Survey statistics should be fully assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics, to ensure meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value.


The team demonstrated a good awareness of the limitations of the MENE survey, and told us how it has enhanced the quality of the data in the last few years. We heard that the team has invested a lot of resource in working through the 10-year MENE dataset to ensure it is clean, consistent and comparable; that it has strengthened its quality assurance (QA) processes; and that it has enhanced resilience in the team by spreading expertise across a wider range of staff and learning from past experiences.

We welcome that QA, and reference to the Code of Practice for Statistics, were built into the contract for the People and Nature Survey, and are pleased that the team is considering building a more collaborate approach to QA for the new survey. We encourage the team to apply the lessons learned from cleaning and maintaining the MENE dataset to develop a good understanding of, and document, the quality of the People and Nature Survey data.


MENE is the leading source of information on people’s engagement with the natural environment, and is used widely inside and outside government. Users in Defra told us that MENE, and the new People and Nature Survey, are key data sources for evaluating policies in the 25-Year Environment Plan. The team has established successful partnerships with several universities, which has led to detailed analyses and insight into the association between people’s contact with nature and health and wellbeing. We heard how engagement with external users and stakeholders has helped colleagues in Natural England and Defra recognise the value of the MENE data and statistics, and we welcome that it has led to a better long-term partnership between Natural England and Defra. It will be important to communicate clearly the value of the new People and Nature Survey and we encourage the team to continue its wide engagement to promote and develop the new statistics.

MENE review

Last year, Natural England commissioned an external review of MENE to better understand the value of the MENE data and statistics to users and to scope out options for piloting different approaches for the People & Nature Survey. The outcome of the review fed into the requirements for the new survey, but the team also made immediate changes to how it reported the MENE results following stakeholder feedback. For example, the team released a GIS local authority dashboard, allowing users to access and integrate local-level data, and developed an interactive, visual story map summarising and reflecting on 10 years of MENE data. We welcome that the team took the opportunity to develop these additional outputs to enhance the value of the MENE statistics. We would welcome similar levels of innovation in the People and Nature Survey outputs.

The draft report of the MENE review has been ready since May 2019 but is still awaiting external peer review. To enhance transparency around the development of the new survey, and to inform users of the lessons learned from MENE, we encourage the team to publish the report as soon as possible.

Our Agriculture, Energy, Environment Domain Lead, Job de Roij, will continue to engage with the statistics team throughout the transition to the new survey.

I am copying this letter to Rose O’Neill and Simon Doxford, the responsible analysts at Natural England.

Yours sincerely

Mark Pont
Assessment Programme Lead


Related Links:

Ken Roy to Job de Roij (November 2019)

Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) Statistics

Dear Job,

Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) – National Statistic Compliance Check

Thank you for meeting with the Natural England team in relation to the Compliance Check of MENE. I understand that you discussed the MENE Review and transition to a new People and Nature Survey.

The MENE survey ended in February 2019 and results have been published on Gov.UK. Following user engagement, the team are developing a new People and Nature survey that will build on and replace MENE. The People & Nature Survey for England will, like MENE, aim to collect data on people’s experiences and attitudes towards the natural world. It is designed to meet the needs of a range of MENE users, new users and provide data for the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan Indicator Framework. The People & Nature Survey will be a new dataset, with some new questions alongside some from MENE, and will use an online panel method to collect data.

Data collection for the new People & Nature Survey will begin in April 2020, with the first annual release in autumn 2021. Given the significant changes to survey design and method, we propose publishing the first statistical release as Experimental Statistics. We intend to ultimately achieve National Statistics status for the new survey, and aim to undergo assessment shortly after the first statistics are published. The experimental phase will allow us to better understand and mitigate for any impacts in relation to trust, quality and value in relation to the transition.

Do get in touch if you require any further information.



Head of Profession for Statistics (Defra group)
Natural England


Related Links:

Mark Pont to Ken Roy (December 2019)

Assessment of statistics on air quality and emissions of air pollutants

Dear Ken


We have today published our assessment report covering these statistics. I am grateful for the positive contribution of your staff and for their engagement throughout the assessment process.

Air pollution is one of the most high-profile and important environmental issues. These air quality and emissions data and statistics are therefore vital to supporting public understanding of the problem and informing public debate, and for the development and evaluation of policies that aim to reduce emissions of air pollutants and improve air quality. Both sets of data and statistics have a wide range of uses and users, and users told us how valuable they are.

Our report identifies many areas of good practice, particularly around quality. These include: the use of the most appropriate data sources with rigorous and robust quality assurance procedures; a close working relationship between Defra and Ricardo, and their effective engagement with data providers, other contractors, stakeholders, and topic experts, to ensure high data quality; and an ambition to further improve the emissions estimates.

Our report identifies some important ways in which the value of these data and statistics should be enhanced. The two sets of statistics form a package and are closely linked, but the statistics bulletins do not help users understand this relationship. To provide a coherent view of these connected topics and generate greater insight for users, both sets of statistics should be integrated as far as possible. As part of achieving this, the air quality and emissions statistics team needs to engage more directly and proactively with users of the statistics to develop a better understanding of the needs of different types of users. We also consider that users’ needs for data would be better served through better access to more granular, disaggregated air quality data and existing local air quality data.

We judge that these statistics can continue to be designated as National Statistics once you have met all six Requirements of this report. This will demonstrate that your statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value and comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics. We have agreed that you will report back to us by May 2020 outlining how you have addressed the Requirements. Aspects of some Requirements will take longer to implement, such as the user engagement work and the improvements to the UK-AIR website; for these, we expect you to send us a detailed update on progress towards meeting the Requirements by May 2020.

Please feel free to discuss any aspect of this with me or my team at any time.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation


Related Links:

Assessment report 344: Statistics on air quality and emissions of air pollutants