Councils Claim Government Miscount Will Cost Residents

Wandsworth falling victim to an 'inadequate' migration tracking system

Wandsworth Council believes that the problem stems from 2007 when a change was made to the way the Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculates resident numbers.  This resulted in London's projected population being  under counted.   Because population data plays a key role in planning resources and public services the miscount means Wandsworth’s needs are being underestimated. In September 2008 the ONS admitted the mistake but has done nothing to correct the methodology.  

Deputy council leader Maurice Heaster said:  
“It’s absurd that we are being openly short-changed during a recession when added pressures are being brought to bare on our services.   The council is gearing all of its resources to meet the challenges of the economic downturn and we cannot afford to be held back by deficient data.”  

Chairman of London Councils Merrick Cockell pictured right added:
“It simply beggars belief that ONS has ruled out addressing the mistake it made when it changed the way it develops population estimates. This means that Londoners and their public services will continue to lose out on funding - and at a time when services are already feeling the pinch. If the government is committed to developing better population data, then it must address this failing.”  

The council has voiced concerns with the way the ONS uses GP registration data to calculate local population estimates.  Because many residents are not registered with a local doctor this leads to a low count.   The problem is severe in Wandsworth where a high proportion of residents are young and mobile - moving home frequently without changing GP.  

MP for Putney & Roehampton Justine Greening said, " It is deeply concerning that inaccurate ONS calculations of population determine so much of our local resourcing for local services.  We have a lot of local migration - about a third of all my casework as an MP is immigration, so we need a system that can cope with the realities of London communities today not just in Wandsworth but across London." 

Cllr Heaster continues , "If residents are not registered with a local doctor then statistically they don’t exist - it’s a ridiculous system.  These underestimates could have long term implications for government grant calculations so it’s very important this problem gets resolved. For our residents to get a fair deal we need to be judged on the true number of people we serve.  There are much more accurate ways of calculating migration and population figures and the ONS needs to rethink.”

March 4, 2009