The Government Statistical Service’s (GSS) subnational data strategy sets out a framework to guide the GSS in producing and disseminating more timely, granular and harmonised subnational statistics that meet user needs.
“Subnational” refers to all data and statistics that are provided for the 12 International Territorial Level 1 (ITL1) areas in the UK, which include Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the nine English regions, and for lower-level geographies.
The strategy highlights the crucial role of subnational statistics in ensuring citizens, businesses and policymakers can make informed decisions on the economy, the environment and society.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recognises the importance of making regional and local statistics easily accessible to monitor our economy, the environment and society at a subnational level.
The ONS was named in the Levelling Up White Paper, published in February 2022, for “making granular data publicly available through a number of tools” and “harnessing data visualisation techniques and building capacity within the ONS to help decision-makers better understand and compare outcomes”.
In response to the GSS subnational data strategy, the ONS is publishing this plan to provide users with an overview of what we will deliver in the next 18 months. This overview will be mapped against the strategy’s three ambitions, which are to:
produce more timely, granular and harmonised subnational statistics
build capability and capacity for subnational statistics and analysis
improve the dissemination of subnational statistics
While this plan covers our current workstreams for new or improved subnational statistics at the time of publication, it will evolve according to new or urgent requirements. We will provide major updates to the workplan approximately 12 months following publication.Back to table of contents
Our focus on the production and dissemination of subnational data and statistics is not new to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). We have a long history of working closely with the Devolved Administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as the combined authorities in England. Our work programme has focused on improving and developing subnational and local statistics to provide a solid information base for regional and local decision-making.
In 2021 and 2022 alone, we released several new subnational publications on different topics (including, but not limited to, the ones listed in this section). This extended the range of local and geographically granular statistics available to our users.
We launched our Subnational indicators explorer, which is an interactive tool that you can use to compare UK local authorities across several subnational indicators. This includes a machine-readable data download and an accompanying dataset providing information and metadata on the publicly available data sources disseminated.
Later this year, we will begin publishing Census 2021 outputs and Census 2021 analysis, which will provide a wealth of new insights about our society at local levels, including heath, education and employment.
Producing new economic statistics
We published experimental model-based early estimates of quarterly regional gross value added for the nine English regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, building on our collaboration project with the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE).
We released gross value added (GVA) experimental data at granular levels of geography, including Middle layer Super Output Areas, Intermediate Zones, health board areas and parliamentary constituencies. We made available even more granular GVA data (at Lower layer Super Output Areas, Data Zones and Super Output Areas level) through the Secure Research Service (SRS) and sought feedback from users through a consultation process.
We analysed labour productivity in towns and Travel to Work Areas across the UK, bringing together our granular GVA estimates with our analysis of the industrial make-up of towns and cities in England and Wales.
Looking at trade and investment, we published our first experimental estimates for the value of imports and exports of goods and services for 2019, at International Territory Levels (ITL) 1, 2 and 3, and 16 city regions, including breakdowns by industry, and EU and non-EU.
Similarly, for the first time, we released experimental subnational foreign direct investment positions and earning statistics by partner economy or industry between 2015 and 2019, at ITL1, ITL2 and city region level.
We added new questions to the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Survey, which included questions asking for companies to provide subnational information. Our Foreign direct investment, overview of new survey questions, UK: March 2022 progress report covers the type of information received for the 2020 reporting year.
Expanding household and environmental statistics
We expanded our housing affordability series to include new analysis of private rent prices as a percentage of gross monthly household income in England at regional level.
We published analysis on the impact of homeworking on spending, including a focus on the geographic differences in homeworking and spending, in terms of urban versus rural, high streets versus suburbs, and regional variation.
We explored methods to estimate turnover and employment in the low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE) for UK countries and English regions.
We brought together a range of indicators on the extent and condition of nature in the UK, including statistics for the four UK countries, in a new structure aligned with the UN system of environmental economic accounting.
Providing detailed health statistics
We published statistics on excess deaths in England and Wales, including deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and due to other causes, broken down by age, sex and local authorities.
We also published an experimental analysis of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in school pupils aged 4 to 15 years attending state-funded schools, by demographic and geographic characteristics and vaccine status.
We used our experimental Health Index scores for England, available at national, regional, county and local authority level, to publish an article providing insights into England’s health before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We also launched an interactive tool that you can use to explore how health changed in your local authority area in England between 2015 and 2019.Back to table of contents
In addition to continuing to produce a wide range of statistics and analysis at different geographical levels, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recognises the need to invest in improving the existing subnational releases, producing new subnational statistics, and enhancing our digital publishing and dissemination tools to reach more users.
This workplan lists the main subnational workstreams planned for the next 18 months across the ONS, providing a short description of expected outputs and indicative timeframe. The workstreams are grouped according to the ambition they meet from the Government Statistical Service’s (GSS) subnational data strategy. This list does not include regular subnational releases, which can be found on the release calendar.
Ambition 1 - Produce more timely, granular and harmonised subnational statistics
We will deliver the following new or improved subnational outputs.
- UK-wide experimental regional gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) estimates by asset type for 1997 to 2020 at ITL1, ITL2 and ITL3 level.
Analysis of business rates and rate relief at high street level, with a focus on comparing high streets with out-of-town locations by region in England and Wales.
Experimental Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) estimates for Northern Ireland as part of the Northern Ireland subnational consumer prices pilot project, part-funded by Northern Ireland’s Consumer Council (continuing into 2023).
An audit of business insights for the London region, generated using existing, published data and ad hoc extraction from a range of personal and business surveys including, but not limited to, the Annual Population Survey (APS) and the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR).
Analysis of the distribution and types of independent and chain retail in the high street, using retail geographies combined with the IDBR, covering Great Britain.
Analysis of earnings progression for a cohort of individuals in England using data from the Registration and Population Interactions Database (RAPID) and the Demographic Index, at local authority level.
Winter 2022 to 2023
Further development of the UK-wide model-based estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) at ITL1 level to identify and, where deemed feasible, incorporate additional local-level data sources.
A research paper in collaboration with the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE) to assess the feasibility of extending UK-wide model-based estimates of GDP to ITL2 level and below.
Refinements to the methods used to apportion gross value added (GVA) to Lower layer Super Output Area (LSOA) level across the UK and to the production process to streamline and achieve annual regular release.
Research on producing chain-linked GVA estimates, in line with international best practice, to produce real-valued economic data, for selected larger subnational geographies like Travel to Work Areas, health boards, parliamentary constituencies, and towns and cities across the UK.
Interim baseline UK-wide estimates for regional (ITL1) government expenditure on research and development using primary data collected from top spending departments.
Improved UK-wide regional estimates of business research and development, potentially producing new breakdowns at ITL2 level and below, following Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) Survey improvements.
Analysis on firm births and deaths during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including UK-wide subnational breakdowns at ITL1 level, using the Longitudinal Business Database.
Implementation, into UK Regional Accounts, of direct non-market output estimates for publicly funded education at ITL2 level, building on our previous feasibility study and experimental analysis.
Admin-based income estimates by ethnicity, produced using administrative data sources at local authority level in England and Wales.
Small area model-based income estimates at Middle layer Super Output Area (MSOA) level in England and Wales, improved using new administrative data sources, with the potential to including experimental LSOA level too.
- Analysis on spatial patterns of how firms establish their locations and the dynamics of this choice over time, using the Longitudinal Business Database, at ITL2 level for all the UK (subject to successful conclusion of the next stage of data development).
Winter 2023 to 2024
UK-wide GDP experimental estimates at MSOA level and LSOA level, with the latter disseminated through the Secure Research Service (SRS).
Implementation, into UK Regional Accounts, of direct non-market output estimates for publicly funded education at ITL3 and local authority level.
Global trade and investment
- UK-wide experimental subnational foreign direct investment estimates for 2020, aiming to publish at ITL1, ITL2 and city region level.
Improvements to the UK-wide experimental estimates of subregional trade in goods, published to ITL3 level, including the introduction of an extra region for offshore activities (for example, oil rigs), partner country estimates, and a review of the suppression methodology currently applied to industry and partner country.
Improvements to the UK-wide experimental estimates of subregional trade in services, published to ITL3 level, including partner country estimates for all regions and a review of the suppression methodology currently applied to industry and partner country.
UK-wide experimental breakdowns of job advert statistics at local authority level.
Revised UK-wide labour market data for 2020 and 2021, using improved Labour Force Survey (LFS) weighting methodology that incorporates the latest Real Time Information (RTI) data.
UK-wide experimental analysis of occupational demand measures, using new sources of online job adverts, aiming for at least ITL1 level.
Estimates of human capital measured by lifetime earnings for the economically active population in the UK, for the years 2019 and 2020, at ITL1 level.
- UK-wide experimental analysis of skill demand and supply measures, aiming for at least ITL1 level.
Winter 2022 to 2023
Analysis, in collaboration with Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT), of geographic mobility based on different educational outcomes, exploring the impacts of educational outcomes and graduate and labour mobility on local labour markets and local economic outcomes, by Travel to Work Areas, cities and towns.
Analysis on employment by business size at local authority level across the UK, using the Longitudinal Business Database.
Improvements to the scope and quality of labour market estimates, particularly their granularity and timeliness, thanks to the substantial increase in the LFS’ sample size and moving to online-first data collection.
Quarterly quality-of-work statistics (including underemployment, overemployment, line manager support, skills mismatch, and bullying and harassment), with subnational breakdowns likely to become available from summer 2024.
Welfare, wellbeing, and housing
- UK-wide social capital estimates of personal relationships, social network support, civic engagement, and trust and cooperative norms, disaggregated by sex, age group, ethnicity, disability status, religion, the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NSSEC), urban and rural location, and ITL1 region.
Analysis on how and why spatial patterns of homeworking vary across regions and across time periods in Great Britain, using survey data and new sources.
Development of UK-wide metrics on access to both physical and digital services, in collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – this will include using new data sources and methods to estimate broadband coverage at the local authority level or below, assess the travel time to centres of employment, and look at ease of access to cultural and educational sites such as libraries.
Analysis of energy efficiency ratings, costs and CO2 emissions at MSOA level for England and Wales, as a pilot project for cross-Government collaboration using the Integrated Data Service (IDS).
Admin-based housing stock statistics at local authority level for England and Wales, using administrative data sources, likely covering variables such as property type, number of bedrooms, age of property and number of bathrooms.
Incremental review and improvement of methods and data sources for quarterly UK-wide subnational construction output estimates at ITL1 level (continuing in 2023).
Analysis on employment and industries of the night-time economy for combined authorities in England.
Winter 2022 to 2023
- Report on progress made towards measuring the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators in the UK, including identifying alternative sources useful to increase their geographical granularity.
Analysis of factors associated with towns and their impact on house price statistics in England and Wales, broadened to investigate expanding settlement using geospatial analysis on new build data and to incorporate Scottish towns and settlements.
Development of housing affordability statistics on purchase, mortgage and rental affordability, including, where possible, estimates for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and for smaller geographies such as regional or MSOA level.
- The UK experimental index of private rental prices at local authority level, as outlined in the development plan aimed at enhancing rental price statistics.
Crime and justice
Winter 2023 to 2024
- Double the sample size of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), allowing for the potential of more granular estimates and greater analysis of the sub-groups possible.
Population, migration, and the census
- A snapshot of the UK hospitality industry and its sub-sectors using IDBR data, at local authority level.
- The first Census 2021 outputs, consisting of rounded population and household estimates for England and Wales, followed later in the year by topic summaries providing detail on health, education and employment, at very granular local levels (continuing in 2023).
Reconciliation findings for population estimates in England and Wales, comparing the rolled over 2021 mid-year estimates with the same estimates for 2011 at the subnational level.
Research on the production of coherent annual population and migration statistics from administrative and survey data at national and local authority level for England and Wales.
Winter 2022 to 2023
Admin-based ethnicity estimates for England and Wales using administrative data at local authority level, improving timeliness compared with census-based estimates, and granularity compared with survey-based estimates.
Research on the production of coherent monthly population and migration statistics from administrative and survey data at national and local authority level for England and Wales.
- A reconciliation report at local authority level and revised back-series of UK population estimates from mid-2012 to mid-2020.
2021-based population projections for England at subnational level, including regions, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS regions.
2021-based household projections for England, by region and local authority.
Analysis on second-generation migration in England and Wales, at local authority level.
Environment, climate, and nature
- A natural capital accounts roadmap (workplan), including plans for greater granularity of these accounts.
- Completion of the project funded by HM Treasury's Economic Data Innovation Fund on defining and measuring green jobs as set out in the “green jobs” workplan – this includes building on the initial regional estimation work for the low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE).
Health and social care
- Experimental Health Index scores for England, at regional, county and local authority level, updated to include data for the year 2020.
- Climate-related mortality and hospital admissions for England and Wales, at regional level.
Ambition 2 - Build capability and capacity for subnational statistics and analysis
update the cross-GSS Coherence of statistics workplan in summer 2022 by consulting with analytical leaders to ensure the workplan is impactful, inclusive and ambitious – statistical coherence draws together thematic outputs to ensure statistical producers are working together across the system and our data tell a joined-up story
work with stakeholders across Government and the Devolved Administrations to deliver the GSS Harmonisation Team workplan – in autumn 2022, we will be reporting the findings of our initial research and engagement for disability, ethnicity and sex, and we will also be publishing a timetable for next steps in relation to sex and gender identity
continue to support and provide guidance on subnational statistics to combined authorities in England through regular bilateral meetings, quarterly liaison group meetings, topic-specific roundtables and a monthly newsletter
establish regional hubs of ONS analysts to provide strategic support to local leaders and stakeholders, and collect user requirements to deliver more local insights to support decision-making, starting in 2022 and continuing in 2023 and 2024
continue to offer advice to local government stakeholders interested in reporting SDG data for their local area through the Open SDG platform
make training and learning resources available to promote best practice and increase capability when using geographic data with statistics
develop guidance material to enable greater understanding of the geographic products that the ONS offers
Ambition 3 - Improve the dissemination of subnational statistics
We will work throughout 2022 and 2023 to:
improve the structure of the ONS website and enable a sensible journey for users to interact with subnational statistics, improving signposting across topic areas
enable users to interact with Census 2021 data through digital publishing tools offering a range of functionalities, including a flexible table builder, area profiles, atlas, draw your own area, and the key population explorer
gradually improve the data available and the functionalities of the Subnational indicators explorer, as part of the roadmap towards the creation of the Explore Subnational Statistics service, which will provide one place for users to find, analyse, visualise and compare subnational statistics by standardised geographies and customer-defined areas
look to add more localised datasets and functionality to the UK Climate Change Statistics portal, which brings together data and indicators from across a range of government producers, and already includes carbon dioxide emissions and woodland cover by local authority
Contact details for this Article
Telephone: +44 2075 928694