An assessment of the trustworthiness, quality and public value of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Sectors Economic Estimates.
Judgement on National Statistics status
The Office for Statistics Regulation judges that, subject to the implementation of the requirements in this report, the DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates can be designated National Statistics. The designation of the Trade statistics as National Statistics is additionally contingent upon the related Office for National Statistics (ONS) output, UK Trade Statistics, being redesignated as a National Statistic.
Over recent years DCMS has strived to improve the breadth and depth of these statistics, along with the presentation of their outputs. It has continuously developed and published new indicators to meet user needs. As a result, DCMS produces informative, easy-to-use statistics about the economic impact of the sectors for which it has policy responsibility.
The statistics team at DCMS has built strong relationships with those with an interest in these statistics, and users of the statistics spoke highly of their engagement with DCMS. DCMS has good relationships with many organisations producing similar outputs. However, even greater collaboration and harmonisation between producers could improve the coherence, and hence trustworthiness, of the statistical landscape of these policy areas. DCMS could further improve the value of these statistics by improving the explanations of the overlap between the sectors, and by providing more information about these other, similar, statistics. This would help users to find the most appropriate statistics for their needs, and ensure they are interpreted correctly.
The headline messages from these statistics reach wide audiences through mainstream and social media, whilst the detailed breakdowns of data have an active, interested, but more niche user base. DCMS has a good understanding of the uses and users of these statistics, and has been pro-active in seeking and responding to feedback from them. However, DCMS could go further to meet their needs by exploring ways to provide socioeconomic breakdowns for their smallest sub-sectors.
International industrial classifications do not describe many parts of the modern UK economy very well, including significant parts covered by DCMS. Despite this, the statistics team at DCMS has been committed to developing statistics, using innovative methods drawing on industry and statistical expertise, to meet the needs of users. The development of these statistics has involved two main strands of work, as follows.
The first has been in defining the DCMS sectors, based on Standard Industrial Classification codes. These have developed over time, in a slightly piecemeal way, based on the views of sector working groups, international best practice, internal DCMS policy and pre-existing output from ONS. This approach means that the different sectors are not comparable, and that some sectors have much broader definitions than others, which is likely to bias the estimates. DCMS could improve the usefulness of the statistics by carrying out a full review of consistency and comparability of the sector and sub-sector definitions and refresh the definitions as appropriate.
The second strand of work has been to develop the various economic measures. DCMS has endeavoured to use official sources of data, and to draw expertise from ONS for developing the more complex measures, such as GVA. This means for most releases, the statistics can be compared to other national data, for example presenting employment in DCMS sectors as a percentage of all UK employment.
In choosing to develop the underpinning analysis for publication as official statistics, and by putting the outputs forward for assessment as National Statistics, DCMS is demonstrating its commitment to producing trusted statistics with integrity. However, statistics which aim to demonstrate the impact of sectors of the economy inherently risk being open to bias, as those with the knowledge to define the sectors and sub-sectors have the most to gain from seeing their sector grow. DCMS statisticians have been cautious when developing new methodologies, for example when selecting product codes to use in Trade statistics, to reduce the risk of estimates over-stating the economic impact of any given sector or sub-sector. However, when reviewing the definitions, DCMS should seek independent advice – for example from ONS – to ensure the best approach is taken to reduce any bias.
Letter from Ed Humpherson to Jackie Orme (December 2018)