• Outlines why a traditional census was the only option for 2011.

  • Introduces the work undertaken to look at alternative ways of delivering a future census.

  • The conduct of the UK’s 2011 Census has benefited from the lessons learned from the 2001 Census, including justifying the census in terms of cost-benefit.

Every ten years the census gives us a complete picture of the nation. It allows us to compare different groups of people across the United Kingdom because the same questions are asked, and the information is recorded, in the same way throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The census provides information that government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding.

Develop policies

Before central or local government can offer services, policies must be based on high quality evidence.

Plan and run public services

We all use public services such as schools, health services, roads and libraries. These services need to be planned, and in such a way that they keep pace with fast-changing patterns of modern life. We need accurate information on the numbers of people, including the balance of young and old, what jobs people do, where they live and in what type of housing.

Allocate money to local authorities

An accurate count of the population in each local area helps the Government to calculate the size of grants it allocates each local authority and health authority.

The data are also widely used by academics, businesses, voluntary organisations and the public.