The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) review of business demography recommended the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publish a plan, by the end of January 2021, setting out how it would meet the improvements set out within the report.

Specifically, the OSR business demography report asked ONS to:

“Publish a plan, which includes specific actions, deliverables and a timetable by end of January 2021, that explains how it will address the improvements identified in this report, including plans for reviewing the funding of the Statistical Business Register.”

This is our progress update on our plans to address the OSR recommendations.

Consultation group

We will establish a consultation group of business demography users, which will include representatives from the organisations listed in the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) report including central government, devolved administrations and research bodies. The first meeting will take place in February and this will ensure users are fully embedded within the development of the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) and improvements are driven by user needs (Requirement 4). This will also help to develop the full potential of the IDBR for business dynamics outlined in Requirement 3. The detailed terms of reference of this group will be agreed at the first meeting, but its objective will be to appraise the proposals to meet each requirement.

Business demography publications

The group will advise on our proposals for the development of business demography publications.
These will include how to further develop the quarterly experimental publication and what this means for the current annual publication and its timeliness. One of the aims will be to publish more detail in the quarterly publication to improve the timeliness of available data (Requirement 5).

The draft timeline for this work during 2021 is:

  • February – first meeting of the consultation group
  • March to June – examine methodology, determine quarterly requirement, annual requirements, and any other issues
  • July – agree changes to the publications and establish timetable for implementation
  • August to November – implement new quarterly and annual releases

Register quality

Requirements 6 and 7 of the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) report are broadly about the quality of Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) data. To address these, we have created a small team of researchers. The main workstreams being developed are:

  • Industrial Classification quality and updating
  • lag between business start and registration
  • influence of registrations at single postcodes
  • business structure updating

This work will seek to address the quality questions raised by the OSR and identify improvements. Reviewing and documenting the quality of these processes will give users a better understanding of the underlying IDBR quality and hence of the business demography and other outputs.

This will take place between January and June 2021 with the aim or producing a set of recommendations. The implementation of any future recommendations will need to be evaluated and prioritised, so it is not currently possible to give a precise timeline for delivery.

The outcome of this work will be added to existing quality measures to create a new dashboard on register quality. The aim will be to have the new dashboard available by late 2021.

Statistical Business Register

Requirement 8 of the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) report states:

“To ensure that the statistics are developed to provide the insights that users need, ONS should dedicate enough resources to, and sufficiently prioritise, the development of the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) and business demography statistics.”

The IDBR is a rich data source of the UK business population. We agree with the OSR that developing a new Statistical Business Register (SBR) is important to further develop these statistics. Our plans for its further funding and development are being considered as part of the wider prioritisation planning taking place across the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in response to 2021 to 2022 spending review. Following the conclusion of this work, we will publish our plans in a further progress update to this report.

Accessing and linking

Requirement 1 relates to the Secure Research Service and matching services. We are taking forward discussions with the relevant teams within the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to resolve these issues.

Legal framework

Requirement 2 states that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) should seek to review the legislation governing its business data to ensure an appropriate balance between confidentiality and accessibility. The DEA has given ONS wider access to administrative data, so no further primary legislation changes to the Statistics of Trade Act are being sought at this time. ONS collaboratively continues to work with data suppliers on making data more accessible.