Background and purpose of proposals

The UK Statistics Authority has set out its five-year strategy for 2020 to 2025 Statistics for the public good: Informing the UK, Improving lives.

In April 2020, a number of changes to the Office for National Statistics’s Economic Statistics Group’s (ESG) publication regime were implemented aligning to the thematic principles set out in the new 2020 UK Statistics Authority strategy. These changes were consistent with the aim of supporting the increased levels of cross-cutting analysis to continue to meet the UK’s statistical needs.

We accelerated implementation of the proposals to reduce pressure on our teams across the organisation, creating capacity so we could focus on the agreed priorities for outputs, transformation and the analytical response to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19). In summary, these removed around 90 bulletins from the planned schedule for 2020.

We have kept the position under review with the expectation that we would have to make further changes if the pressures of the pandemic (in terms of reduced workforce and additional analytical demands) continued. This has proved to be the case.

To ensure the sustainability of our activities, we are now taking a set of targeted further steps. Our overarching approach is to prioritise our short-term measurement as our users tell us that is their current priority. The proposals therefore largely look to sequence our annual surveys and outputs differently to alleviate pressure and/or to redirect resources onto priorities while also seeking to maintain quality of our outputs and allow greater time for companies to return data via our survey forms. With this in mind, we set out further planned publication changes to some of our annual surveys, specifically, the Annual Business Survey (ABS), Annual Purchases Survey (APS) and E-commerce Survey.

Annual Business Survey (ABS)

The provisional 2019 ABS dataset will not be published in November 2020 as originally planned. The final ABS dataset will be published in May 2021 (this date remains unchanged). Users should note that the Annual Exporters and Importers release will also not be published in November 2020.

Annual Purchases Survey (APS)

The provisional 2019 APS dataset will not be published in November 2020 as originally planned. The final results (May 2021) will also not be published as we would normally do. We will continue to evaluate the APS dataset and future publication dates.

E-commerce Survey and the digital economy

In response to the rapidly evolving UK and global digital economy, we are taking the opportunity to pause and review our wider stakeholder requirements of the digital economy (to include the access and use of the internet) and the opportunities and changing demands brought about by EU exit and the coronavirus pandemic. We will engage with the UK government and wider stakeholders to capture future requirements, which will help shape the design and content of the digital economy.

We will pause the 2021 E-commerce publication (2020 reference period) as part of a strategic review of how we measure the broader UK digital economy. However, data for the 2019 reference period will be published in December 2020 as planned.

We will provide regular updates on our progress but if you have any questions, please contact the ABS team at ABAPS@ons.gov.uk.