In response to Alex Deane's recent piece - "Why I won't be completing the Census" - I thought readers may be interested to hear a different perspective.
I will be filling in my Census form for various reasons, but most importantly because I see it as part of my duty as a British citizen. This doesn’t mean I don’t have serious misgivings about handing over personal information, or absolute confidence in the Whitehall machine to abide by data protection and handling rules.
In Opposition the Conservatives were extremely concerned about the relationship between the citizen and the state when it came to personal data, and the subsequent problems of data losses and state incompetence. Whilst steps are being taken by the Coalition Government to reverse New Labour’s transformational government agenda, we still need stronger policies to return power to each citizen over his or her data. MPs interested in this area could put down amendments to the Freedom Bill to end the notion of implied consent; allow data freezing; and introduce transparent audit trails.
However, there is a difference between disliking an intrusive state and not interacting with the state at all. We rely on the government to provide our public services and safeguard our security. So for practical reasons alone, we need to make sure it has the necessary information to do this. Whilst vast amounts of government-collected data may not be essential, Census data is. It is used to allocate local authority funding, and other government grants, which are currently calculated on out-of-date 2001 estimates.
In addition to the financial importance of this data for local communities, both the public and private sector rely on Census findings when making decisions about new projects, business expansion, and regeneration.
As the Government decentralises power and funding, Census data will help ensure this can reflect the contemporary situation in every area.