Ed Humpherson to Michael Brodie: Official Statistics: National flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports

Dear Mr Brodie

Official Statistics: National flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports

I am writing about delays to the release of statistics published by Public Health England (PHE). Most recently, on 8 October the National flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports, which are classified as official statistics, were delayed from 2pm until 5pm.

PHE make use of and publish a wealth of data supporting the core activities of government, informing decisions and tracking outcomes. Your coronavirus dashboard is a key source of information for many people, getting millions of hits each week, and the information you publish in your surveillance report supports the public in understanding decisions around local lockdowns. It is an impressive achievement for a small team to produce these figures in such a timely way and we appreciate the effort that has been put into making the data available so widely.

The importance of what you publish is unquestionable and it is essential that the public have confidence in it. The Code of Practice for Statistics supports public confidence in statistics by setting out clear commitments for official statistics producers.

Meeting the expectations of the Code helps you as an organisation demonstrate trustworthiness which in turns supports confidence in you and the data you publish. For example, it supports transparency and equality of access, and highlights the importance of independent decision making. To support this, we were pleased that you pre-announced the decision to combine the flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports.

However, some of your recent publications have been delayed, including the National flu and COVID-19 surveillance official statistics publication on 8 October. While there are times when a publication may need to be delayed, for example, to address quality concerns with the data being published, it is important that these delays are clearly communicated and decisions are informed by the Head of Profession for Statistics. We would expect the Head of Profession for Statistics to engage experts in PHE (and more widely), and if necessary consult the National Statistician. The Code sets out expectations around decision making and the role of the Head of Profession:

  • Changes to pre-announced release dates or times should be agreed by the Chief Statistician/Head of Profession for Statistics. Any changes should be announced promptly, explaining the reasons for the change. (T3.2).
  • The Head of Profession for Statistics should have sole authority for deciding on methods, standards and procedures, and on the content and timing of the release of regular and ad hoc official statistics. (T2.1)
  • The Head of Profession for Statistics should actively advocate the application of the Code pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value to all those involved in producing, publishing and using statistics and data in the organisation. (T2.2)
  • As the principal adviser and accountable officer on statistical matters within the organisation, the views of the Head of Profession for Statistics should be considered in all matters relating to statistics and data. (T2.3)
  • The Head of Profession for Statistics should report immediately any concerns regarding professional independence and accidental or wrongful release of statistics to the National Statistician (T2.7) and should report any concerns about continuing to meet the principles of the Code to me as Director General for Regulation (T2.8).

I would be happy to meet to discuss the value of official statistics and the Code of Practice if you would find it helpful.

I am copying this letter to Sir Ian Diamond, the National Statistician and Clare Griffiths, PHE Head of Profession for Statistics.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Mark Pont to Roger Halliday: Scottish House Condition Survey Statistics

Dear Roger

Scottish House Condition Survey Statistics

As you are aware, we recently completed our review of the compliance of the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) statistics against the Code of Practice for Statistics. I am pleased to confirm that these statistics should continue to be designated as National Statistics.

We initiated this review following the public commitment we made in our 2020/21 Regulatory Work Programme to focus on statistics about key issues within Housing. We appreciate the positive and constructive way that the team engaged with us during the review, especially as we continue through these challenging times.

We found a range of positive features that demonstrate the trustworthiness, quality, and value of the statistics:

  • The Key Findings summary drawing users’ attention to the main messages in a clear and insightful way, along with comprehensive methodology notes which are updated annually and contain accessible information on the methods used and quality assurance approach.
  • Establishing a new process to publish ad hoc data requests and analyses, making SHCS data accessible to all users in an open and transparent way.
  • The survey data being published in Open Data format, and the team’s plans to make the survey data accessible for wider re-use and further analysis via the UK Data Service next year.
  • Future plans to develop new ad-hoc analyses based on deeper dives of the SHCS data on topics of particular user interest.
  • Your team’s regular engagement with users of the SHCS statistics through a range of means including the annual user days for the Scottish Household Survey (of which the SHCS is part) and communicating with users through the ScotStat
  • Regular engagement with the survey contractors, Ipsos MORI and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) throughout the year, including attending the interviewer and surveyor training, resulting in good working relationships and the ability to deal with any queries promptly.

We identified some areas for improvement that would enhance the quality and value of the statistics:

  • The ability to compare housing conditions across the different UK nations continues to be an area of interest for users. To assist users with doing this appropriately, we suggest that you provide signposting to other countries housing conditions data and relevant analyses within the SHCS statistics and contribute to cross-UK work to highlight the extent of the comparability and difference of these sources with the SHCS.
  • In order to support transparency regarding planned developments of the SHCS statistics, the team should publish details about its future development plans for the statistics and its overall approach to user engagement, so that users are clear about the available channels for them to feed in their views on such developments.
  • While the SHCS statistics are based primarily on survey sources, some administrative data are used for comparison purposes and as a small element of SHCS fuel poverty measurement. Where these administrative data sources are used, including those that are badged National Statistics, we expect producers to be assured of the quality of these data and its suitability for their use, and communicate this assurance to users. Our administrative data quality assurance guidance provides a framework to help producers to do this.

The suspension of all face-to-face surveys due to COVID-19, has created uncertainty around the future of SHCS data collection for both the social and physical survey. We discussed this in detail with your statisticians and heard of their potential plans in this area, including learning from, and sharing best practice with, other UK and Republic of Ireland statisticians through the Five Nations House Conditions Surveys meetings. We recommend that the team publish its plans soon so that users are informed of any future changes as soon as possible. Given the uncertainty and changing nature of events, we welcome that the team has agreed to keep in contact with us as these plans progress.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspects of this letter further. I am copying this letter to Ailie Clarkson, Lead Statistician, and Claire Wood and Rucha Amin in the statistics team, and Adam Krawczyk, Head of Housing, Homelessness & Regeneration Analysis at the Scottish Government.

Yours sincerely

 

Mark Pont

Assessment Programme Lead

Ed Humpherson response to Siobhan Carey: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for Northern Ireland tourism statistics

Dear Siobhan

Northern Ireland Tourism Statistics

Thank you for your letter of 29 September 2020 regarding Northern Ireland tourism statistics. I welcome the publication of your 2019 Northern Ireland Annual Tourism National Statistics later this month, following the suspension of this output earlier in the year due to the data from the Household Travel Survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office in the Republic of Ireland being unavailable. I am pleased to hear that these data are now available and that you are sufficiently reassured that the quality meets the high standards required for National Statistics.

Given the ongoing disruption to the collection of tourism statistics in Northern Ireland caused by COVID-19, I support your decision to temporarily remove National Statistics designation from statistics published for Quarter 1 2020 onwards. Statistics on tourism in Northern Ireland are highly valued by users, so I am pleased that you will continue to publish statistics from other available data, such as passenger flow at airports and occupancy in hotels, as well as exploring other data sources which may provide further insights for users.

We will continue to engage with your statisticians, via our Travel, Transport and Tourism team, and look forward to considering the restoration of National Statistics status once data collection has resumed and you are assured the statistics can meet the standards expected by the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

 

Related Links

Siobhan Carey to Ed Humpherson: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for Northern Ireland tourism statistics

Request to temporarily suspend Northern Ireland travel and tourism statistics

Temporary suspension of Northern Ireland travel and tourism statistics

Siobhan Carey to Ed Humpherson: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for Northern Ireland tourism statistics

Dear Ed

This note follows on from our correspondence in April regarding the temporary suspension of the Northern Ireland Tourism Statistics. As you may recall, the suspension was due to the unavailability of the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO’s) Household Travel Survey data which provides an estimate of overnight trips to NI by visitors from the Republic of Ireland (RoI). As agreed at that time, we published official statistics on overnight trips to NI (excluding RoI visitors)for quarters 2 and 3 2019 in June 2020 and are now working towards the publication of the 2019 Northern Ireland Annual Tourism National Statistics during October 2020 –the latter will include overnight visits to NI by RoI residents.By way of background, CSO has advised that they will be publishing their 2019 annual statistics on 30th September including overnight visits to NI by RoI residents.

We have spoken to CSO and are reassured that the quality of the statistics are comparable to the historic series. We had already discussed and agreed with our key users that we would defer publishing our annual statistics until the CSO data were available as this would avoid publishing two sets of data which could potentially cause confusion. Our key users were content with this approach.

The publication was suspended following the publication of quarter 1 2019 tourism statistics and the production of the October release will allow us to complete the time series. All quarterly statistics will be contained within this release.

As anticipated, COVID-19 has caused disruption to the collection of tourism statistics in Northern Ireland. We propose that we publish data for Quarter 1 2020 up to the date that face to face data collection stopped (17th March 2020). We suggest that this should not have National Statistics status. We will continue to publish passenger flow at airports (Official Statistics) and occupancy in hotels (National Statistics) and other accommodation establishments (Official Statistics) for the period they are open. We are continuing to explore other data sources that can give our users an indication of tourism in Northern Ireland during 2020.

Yours sincerely,

SIOBHAN CAREY,

CBE Registrar General for Northern Ireland & Chief Executive NISRA

 

Related Links

Ed Humpherson response to Siobhan Carey: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for Northern Ireland tourism statistics

Request to temporarily suspend Northern Ireland travel and tourism statistics

Temporary suspension of Northern Ireland travel and tourism statistics

Mark Pont to Daniel Shaw: Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000

Dear Daniel

Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000

As you are aware, we recently reviewed Home Office (HO) statistics on the Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 against the Code of Practice for Statistics. Following a constructive conversation with the team responsible for producing these statistics, I am pleased to confirm that they should continue to be designated as National Statistics.

We found many positives in our review, particularly in how your team presents these statistics, which enhance their value and quality. These include:

  • The use of infographics and flow charts to illustrate the criminal justice process and the outcomes for those arrested. These graphics are simple but highly effective at summarising the data and conveying visually an overall story that could be hard to bring together across a written publication.
  • The team is taking steps to ensure its statistical bulletins meet the new accessibility requirements for public sector organisations, such as including text to describe charts, which can be read by those using screen readers, and making changes to the standard HO colour palate that is used across many statistical publications. This work will ensure a broad range of users is able to access the statistics easily. We also welcome that there is an ongoing discussion in HO regarding publishing statistical outputs in HTML format to aid accessibility.
  • The user guide that accompanies this statistical publication presents insightful, clear information about the different data that make up the statistics and how the quality of these is assured. We particularly like the presentation of this information in tables (pages 2-4 of the current user guide), as we feel it makes it very easy for users of the statistics and guide to find this information.
  • The user guide also provides helpful information about how data are collected and resulting limitations on the statistics. For example, it is clear that ethnicity and nationality data may be based on the officer’s best judgement, rather than the actual ethnicity or nationality of the person being arrested. The team is aware that some users of the statistics would like ethnicity data to be broken down into more-detailed ethnic groups and is exploring with data providers whether this is possible.
  • In response to user feedback, HO has improved the timeliness of these statistics. Previously data were published 6 months after the period to which they referred; HO has worked with data providers to reduce this to 3 months.

 

Our review also identified several ways we consider you could further enhance the trustworthiness and value of these statistics:

  • The pre-release access list for these statistics is very long, and it is not clear to us that it is essential for all of the named roles on the list to receive the statistics 24 hours in advance of their general release. The trustworthiness of government statistics is in part determined by them being known to be produced independently from outside influence. This perception can be damaged when pre-release access is too wide. We were pleased to hear that your team plans to review the list of individuals who receive pre-release access to these statistics, with a view to reducing the total number before the next publication.
  • The statistical bulletin and the user guide make clear that the data in these statistics are regularly revised, and that each release contains data that are correct at the time of publication. While the team told us that the sizes of revisions between publications are small, it would be beneficial for the team to do some quantitative analysis that illustrates the size of typical revisions between publications of the statistics. This would better inform users about the size of revisions and help them understand how data might change in the future, which may impact how they analyse or interpret analysis of the statistics.
  • Although there is substantial evidence of the team making improvements to the timeliness and content of these statistics in response to user needs, the user base with which the team engages remains narrow. We think that the team’s suggestion of contacting academics working in this space as a way into understanding the wider user base is a good idea.

Thank you to your team for their positive engagement during this review: we look forward to continuing to engage with you and the team on these and other statistics. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspects of this letter further.

I am copying this letter to John Flatley, Programme Director for Crime and Policing Statistics at HO, and Jodie Hargreaves, Crime and Policing Analysis, HO Analysis and Insight.

Yours sincerely

 

Mark Pont

Assessment Programme Lead

 

Related Links

Statistics on the Operation of Police Powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and other legislation

 

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)

Strengths

  • 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)

Strengths

  • 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)

Strengths

  • 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)

Strengths

  • 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 Baroness Dido Harding: Reasons for getting a COVID-19 test: Survey of regional and local testing sites

Dear Dido

Reasons for getting a COVID-19 test: Survey of regional and local testing sites

I am writing to welcome the publication yesterday of the Covid-19 survey of regional and local testing sites. The survey is available at the following website location:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/survey-reasons-for-getting-a-coronavirus-covid-19-test/reasons-for-getting-a-covid-19-test-survey-of-regional-and-local-testing-sites-between-1-and-4-september

Publication of this information, following discussion with the Office for Statistics Regulation, ensures that data referred to in public debate is equally available to all and enhances transparency.

The background is that on 9 September, you referred to the results of a survey undertaken by NHS Test and Trace as part of oral evidence you provided to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The survey results included the percentage of people who, having booked a test, do not appear to be eligible for one because they have no symptoms. As part of your evidence, you said that the underlying evidence would be published, which has now been done.

Thank you for arranging publication of this information.

I am copying this letter to Stephen Balchin, Head of Profession for Statistics at the Department for Health and Social Care, and William Wragg MP, Chair of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Ed Humpherson to Iain Bell: Compliance check of ONS Overseas Travel and Tourism statistics

Dear Iain

Compliance check of ONS Overseas Travel and Tourism statistics

I am writing about the compliance check of ONS Overseas Travel and Tourism statistics which we carried out last year. Our review focused on two issues: the sample size of the survey used to calculate the statistics and how the tourism team engaged with users. We set out several requirements that ONS was to meet by July 2020 to ensure compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. These included improvements to user engagement and publishing better information about quality and methods.

I would like to commend the hard work your team has carried out since our review. Taking into account the impact of COVID-19 on the International Passenger Survey, which provides the data for these statistics, we consider that ONS has demonstrated great progress in meeting our requirements. Developing new ways to engage with users has resulted in ONS reaching and understanding a broader group of users – for example hosting user events and seminars, carrying out an online survey and distributing a regular newsletter. Implementing an improved methodology to deal with the known underestimates for visitors from some countries means that users have more accurate information. Users are also now better supported in understanding the statistics and their limitations thanks to your published guidance on interpreting confidence intervals. I welcome your commitment to ensure the longevity and sustainability of these improvements.

I would also like to welcome your review of tourism statistics which you plan to carry out over the next six months and support your plans to explore additional sources to further enhance the scope and value of these statistics. I encourage you to ensure that the approach to, and findings of, the review are open and transparent to users. Given that COVID-19 led to suspension of International Passenger Survey operations in mid-March, I welcome your team’s efforts to publish tourism statistics for the affected period. This approach meets user needs as far as possible, while acknowledging the impact on quality through temporary suspension of National Statistics status.

We appreciate the openness and enthusiasm with which your team has engaged with us over the last year and look forward to receiving further updates on the outcome of your review.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Ed Humpherson to Eugene Mooney: COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time

Dear Eugene,

COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time

Earlier in the year we granted ONS an exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am to permit a later release time of noon each Friday for statistics from the COVID-19 infection survey.

I am happy to confirm that the same exemption applies to the statistics for Northern Ireland from this survey that you publish. I am copying this letter to Ruth Fulton, head of Statistical Support branch at NISRA.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation

Related links:

Ed Humpherson to Stephanie Howarth: COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time

Ed Humpherson to Stephanie Howarth: COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time

Dear Stephanie,

COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time

Earlier in the year we granted ONS an exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am to permit a later release time of noon each Friday for statistics from the COVID-19 infection survey.

I am happy to confirm that the same exemption applies to the statistics for Wales from this survey that you publish.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation

Related links:

Ed Humpherson to Eugene Mooney: COVID-19 Infection Survey Results Publication Time