Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Call to save UK citizenship survey

Eric Pickles has been urged to save the Citizenship Survey from the axe

A regular national survey of issues such as immigration and extremism is "too valuable to be lost" and should be saved from spending cuts, a watchdog has urged.

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) accused Communities Secretary Eric Pickles of ignoring the views of other Government departments, as well as experts and charities, in scrapping the Citizenship Survey.

In a critical letter, UKSA chairman Sir Michael Scholar told him the data it produced underpinned many state programmes as well as Prime Minister David Cameron's Wellbeing and Big Society projects.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced last month that the survey was being dropped, despite a consultation producing a welter of criticism from all quarters.

Running since 2001, the survey takes in the views of around 10,000 adults in England on issues such as race equality, faith, feelings about their community, volunteering and participation.

The letter comes two weeks after the UKSA issued a similar warning to the Health Secretary over smoking and drinking figures amid mounting disquiet that such surveys are seen as an easy target.

Sir Michael told Mr Pickles that "insufficient account" has been taken of the Government's need for data to monitor its own policies and to aid other bodies unable to afford such research.

DCLG's own summary of the consultation responses reported that the "vast majority" of current users were concerned and that the strongest criticism had come from other Government departments, voluntary organisations and academics and National Statistician Jil Matheson, he pointed out.

She stressed the value of the results, especially to two of Mr Cameron's pet projects: measuring national well-being and "helping the public to assess what the Big Society means", he said.

A DCLG spokesman defended the process, saying: "The final decision to end this survey was made following consultation and we have been open and transparent in publishing all the consultation responses online. This is not a frontline service. Ministers would rather give money to charities and the voluntary sector than hand out blank cheques to opinion polling companies."

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