Future of Nomis Consultation (aka Is Local Economic Data At Risk?)

The Office for National Statistics has today launched a consultation to gather views on their proposals to replace Nomis with the ‘ONS Data Explorer’.  For those of you not familar with Nomis, it is currently the primary source for many of the key national economic datasets, such as the Claimant Count, Benefit Claimants, earnings, job vacancies and the business register. 

You can read the details of the proposal here, but in summary, the proposals appear to put the availability of many of these critical datasets at risk, particularly at the local level.  For example, we can currently access benefit claimant data (Income Support, JSA, Disability Living Allowance etc) at Super Output Area level, and the figures are updated quarterly.  This data is provided, via Nomis, by the Department for Work & Pensions.  The proposals state that…

The ONS Data Explorer would only host ONS Data. Consequently this dataset would no longer be available. Dissemination for this data would be the responsibility of DWP.

The idea of simplifying the availability of government datasets should be welcomed, and fewer portals can only be a good thing.  However, if the new tools are only going to cover ONS datasets, then other government departments will either have to set up alternative systems for accessing their data or, worse still, not bother.

We’ll be posting our response to the consultation on here in due course.  Please read the detail in the proposals paper and let us know, via this blog or email, if you have any views you’d like us to incorporate.

Update below…

*UPDATE* We’ve already received some responses to this, both here and at the LARIA Community of Practice forum (note you will need to be a member of the CoP to view it there).  See below for details.

Responses are listed below; please consider whether these concerns apply to your organisation as well…

5 Responses

  1. Response from Myles Mackie from Coventry City Council:

    “We are very concerned that the proposed changes will mean more data generally but less local data – i.e. LSOA level. This means that are local issues work will be very hampered by lack of external data from an independent source ( however flawed the model is for the localisation data.) It seems to be a charter to proclaim success without any independent verification.”

  2. Response from David Onions at Worcestershire County Council (via Communities of Practice website):

    “Spencer,

    Here at Worcestershire we are also concerned about the prospect this consultation seems to indicate.

    As you say, national bodies streamlining the number of information hubs that exist should only be a good thing, but of all the similar tools we use here I would say NOMIS is the most effective.

    Adding limitations to the data that will be available through any Data Explorer could compromise work we do.

    I agree that the sector should make strong representations to ONS about these considerations in response to the consulation.

    David”

  3. Response from Lorna Gibbons at South West Observatory (via Communities of Practice website, http://www.communities.idea.gov.uk/c/3328800/forum/thread.do?id=10402524)

    “This is a very important consultation.

    So far issues raised this week include:

    1) We would lose the flexibility currently offered to us via NOMIS, ie the ability to aggregate by SIC, Geography etc to produce, for example, data for non-standard sectors/bands or areas such as towns. This would have a huge impact on our day to day work and is key to our effective use of the statistics. We need access to unsuppressed data with the facility to manipulate it according to our needs, otherwise we will be constantly saying to our clients – businesses, councillors, officers, local communities, the public – sorry, the data’s not available for that geography/that sector/that age group etc.

    2) Of particular note is that: Benefits data and JobCentre vacancies data won’t be available through ONS Data Explorer whereas we can currently access these datasets through NOMIS.

    3) BRES employment data will need to be accessed separately – potentially through the Virtual Microdata Labs at ONS sites (currently Newport and London) whereas we now access these datasets through NOMIS at our own desks – so bear in mind the cost of travel and time

    4) This is of great concern because we use LSOA geographies in order to measure our community areas.

    5) Jobs and Growth is incredibly important for this government “

  4. This is part of an emerging theme.

    The Nomis proposals appear to be one of a number of current consultations that potentially threaten the future of local data sourced from central government.

    For example, the DCLG has also announced a consultation, specifically around their Draft Statistics Plan for 2011/12. Again it announces proposals to close down or modify a series of useful datasets, particularly around housing and deprivation/well-being. (see http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/plan201112consultation)

    In addition, DWP are also consulting, this time on data sharing between the DWP and local authorities. You can see more details at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/hb-data-sharing-consultation.pdf.

    There appears to be a theme emerging. At a time when our customers are telling us that they want more local data and the ability to assess need at the neighbourhood or community level, it seems that the availability of data from key central government sources is at risk of being significantly diminished.

    Please respond to these consultations!

  5. […] A while ago we blogged about the consultation from the Office for National Statistics about the future of NOMIS (see previous post here).  […]

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