Since its first collection at the end of the 1990s in the form of a pilot project, the Urban Audit data collection has been subject to modifications in order to ensure it is aligned with current EU policies such as the Europe 2020 Strategy, the revision of the General Regulation for the European Regional Development Fund and progress in the European Statistical System (ESS). The city statistics collected in the Urban Audit are considered to be a major reference for policy making in the framework of Cohesion Policy.
In 1999 the Commission (DG Regio) conducted a tentative data collection of comparable variables and indicators for European cities. The purpose of this data collection was to test the feasibility of collecting comparable measurements of the quality of life in European cities. Over the entire (EU-15 at the time), around 480 variables were collected for the 58 largest cities, not including London and Paris.
After successful completion of the pilot the Commission decided there was a clear need to continue and improve this approach of collecting comparable information on urban development; and it was decided that Eurostat and the ESS should organise further data collections.
The next data collection waves took place as follows:
Between 2003 and 2004 data was collected mainly for the reference year 2001 (UAII)
Between 2006 and 2007 data was collected mainly for the reference year 2004 (UAIII)
Between 2009 and 2011 data was collected mainly for the reference year 2008 (UAIV)
The data collections covered over 300 variables across a wide range of economic, demographic and social topics. The variables were reviewed from wave to wave reflecting past experience and evolving policy needs.
A small set of variables were collected for 1991 and 1996 and a few variables were also collected annually for the reference years 2005 to 2010.
The geographical scope also changed from wave to wave to some extent. Overall it covered cities in the EU-28 plus, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey.