Senior statisticians urge careful consideration over changes to English Housing Survey

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National Statistician John Pullinger has written a letter to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in support of the English Housing Survey (EHS), following the launch of a consultation which seeks to reduce the cost of the survey, possibly by reducing its frequency from once a year to once every two years.

The EHS has run since 2008, when two previously existing surveys were merged. It entails face-to-face interviews with over 13,000 households and a physical assessment of half of those households. It costs around £4 million each year, which housing minister Brandon Lewis has called ‘excessive’.

John Pullinger said in a letter to Sir Bob Kerslake, permanent secretary of the DCLG: ‘At a time of heightened interest and rapid change in the housing market, I would urge the Department to consider most carefully the implications any pause to the Survey would have for the long-term evidence base for housing in England.’

He attached an annex setting out some specific and significant uses of the survey, including its role in formulating housing policy; a key source for analysing over-crowding/under-occupation; the basis on which Winter Fuel Payments are made; and the way it contributes to measures of inflation, such as CPIH.

Pullinger also pointed out that not carrying out the survey in 2015/16 will mean that fuel poverty figures will be up to three years out of date rather than 18 months, as is currently.

Concerns were raised to the UK Statistics Authority by Labour MP John Healey, who said the move to a biennial housing survey would be a ‘huge mistake’. In response, UKSA chair Andrew Dilnot reiterated John Pullinger’s words urging care regarding the frequency of the survey, copying in the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.

Mike Hughes, who chairs the RSS National Statistics Advisory Group, confirmed that the RSS supports both John Pullinger and the UK Statistics Authority in this issue and that it will be responding to the consultation, which runs until February 17 2015.

 

NB: The final paragraph of this article was updated on 10/02/15 to confirm that the RSS will be responding to the consultation. It was updated again on 11/02/15 to correct the date of the consultation deadline.

John Pullinger Official Statistics Andrew Dilnot

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