The ONS underestimated the population of Newham by nearly 70,000 people – what went wrong?

July 17, 2012 12:38 pm

Last weekend the best estimate from the ONS said that 240,000 people lived in Newham, yesterday the census told us there are 308,000. That’s an increase overnight  approximately the size of Maldon, or Corby, or North Devon. That’s a whole lot of people. A whole lot of people with a whole lot of requirements – education, health care, policing – to name but a few.

Every 10 years the population is pinned down by the census. Naturally some areas are more difficult to count than others and not everyone in every house always responds; places like inner London notoriously so. The ONS then use a cohort method to move the population on each year. Clearly something went wrong with that methodology, the result of which will have affected our community. This isn’t just a counting game, local authority grant settlements are based on these numbers – the funding we have to provide services for our residents.

When the ONS published their census population estimates yesterday for March 2011 showing Tower Hamlets and Newham with the largest percentage increase in population it did not come as a surprise. We know and see the growth every day through the pressure on our services. Too many kids end up being educated in portacabins and our doctors surgery waiting areas are heaving, as well as the inevitable impacts on living standards, well being and community cohesion.

What is surprising is what the ONS said just last year:

In the period 2001-2010 the “largest decreases in local authority population in England and Wales were between 3 and 5 per cent and occurred in four local authorities (Brent, Burnley, Newham and Sefton)”.

This is pretty scandalous. Population figures are important – funding is based on these numbers – in Newham they were 28% out.

The local authority has complained to the ONS on this point for years, providing data on GP registrations and bulging school rolls as evidence. This was sufficient when Labour were in power as there were additional funding sources allocated to inner Cities. Under the coalition it is a different story, budgets have been slashed meaning that if we take a London Councils estimate of £600 a person these population figures cost Newham families £40m this year alone.

We welcome the new census data and hope it brings with it the funding our communities require and deserve. We also hope this is a sign of better data gathering in the future.

This isn’t just a counting game. This is about resources, services and community cohesion. Our community needs to be confident the ONS are getting it right.

David Christie and Ellie Robinson are Labour Councillors in the London Borough of Newham

 

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    So the population is up by 23.5% in 10 years, does anyone know how much the total housing stock of Newham has grown?

    These kind of population growth levels, in already densely populated cities, must be close to unsustainable absent a return to the sort of unacceptable over-crowding that the Left spent so long trying to eliminate?

    • http://twitter.com/David_Christie David Christie

      Nowhere near that amount of housing. One of the ways Newham are trying to look at issues of overcrowding is through regulation of the provate rented sector in the borough which is due to come into place in January.

      One thing to mention is that we think the 2001 number was an underestimate and the ONS methodology has finally got better.

      • Quiet_Sceptic

        Is that a solution though?

        If you regulate to prevent over-crowding then you will on average reduce the number of people per dwelling but  if you’re not building enough extra dwellings to accommodate them then the total number of people housed will fall.

        You eliminate over-crowding but you create homelessness, unless you can displace that extra population elsewhere to other boroughs or outside of London.

        • http://twitter.com/David_Christie David Christie

          It is a solution to a problem of exploitation but not London’s housing shortage. You’re absolutely right. The Stratford area has 20,000 homes planned in the next 20 years with a population of about 50,000.  If they get built that will provide some capacity. I don’t know what the answer is to this.

          • Landlord

            David,

            Scenario – I have a one bedroom property to rent out. Do you think I will instruct a letting agent to find me a group of 6 people to turn it into a doss house? Or would I be saying to the letting agent, can you get me a nice couple who will look after my property?. The rental price for a flat is the same regardless the number of people.

            You seem to rely on stereotype landlord, for your opinons…

            Overcrowding, is caused by tenants, who sometimes sublet the living room to a friend. The landlord, does not get the extra cash. Overcrrowding costs Landlord, as we end up with more wear and tea in the property.  How will Licensing change the tenants behaviour? Newham Council does n’t get it.

            Then there are other situations, where say you have a young couple in one bedroom flat, they have a baby, then they have another baby. The property is clearly too small for them. So  tell me what should a landlord do in this situation?. Should Landlords be forcing an eviction on this young family or wait until the tenants are ready to move to a bigger place or ready to buy a home?

            It is easy talking about “overcrowding” when you don’t have to deal with ‘real’ people.

            For households on people on benefits, they just go to the council for a bigger house.

          • http://twitter.com/NewhamSue Newham Sue

            They can go to the council all they like for a bigger house, they unlikely to get one in Newham because of the shortages. 

            I love my Newham, its diverse community, its lovely parks, its beautiful buildings and its rich history, but people come here initally because of the (relative, to the rest of London) cheapness of the housing stock. With housing benefit caps and the notions of richer areas of the capital that to live in their areas, regardless of your roots/ kids’ schooling etc etc, is  a privilege bought in spending power rather than one earned by contribution to the area (or anything more useful), the push to move to boroughs like Newham can only increase, adding more pressures to the schools and housing stock at a time of heavy cuts to public services.

            We need more affordable housing, we need more infrastructure and we need it right across London.

          • Alexwilliamz

            And yet I notice lots of really big buildings in the kensington area, often with only 1 or 2 residents or even with the owner not living there most of the year. Something should be done!

    • Chilbaldi

      Housing stock – both quantity and quality – is obviously a huge concern.

      Another problem is, why are all these people moving to these specific areas like Newham? I realise there are ethnic and cultural ties, but what can government do to stop certain areas getting so overcrowded in the first place?

      Before anyone wonders, this isn’t an anti-immigration post by the way – that’s not my style.

      • Alexwilliamz

        Rent costs/house prices?

  • Mister Michael

    When the Labour government advertised an “Open House” policy to the rest of the world, just what did you expect would happen?

    Of course, it is sad when so many people are forced to live without the civic amenities they expect and deserve, it is going happen when our population is rising so quickly.

    Perhaps it is time that local authorities held their own census, say every 4 years, to keep abreast of changes in their own area. 

    • Hello

      I am from an ethic minority and agree with you about the “Open House” policy. A bit late in the day for Ed Milliband to apologise. You should walk around in Newham (and other parts of London). It looks something like from the third world, rather then the smart, well healed, cosmopolitan people in the lobby of the United Nations.

      I can’t find the right words (sorry), but the people that have been let in recent years are “trashy”.

      They should stop immigrants getting housing benefits. It is tarnishing our reputation. I don’t want to see another headline about some immigrant with 4 kids on housing benefit or the woman living in a multi-million pound mansion in St. John Wood.

      We came to this country to work and build a better life life. Some of the people in have been tempted by the welfare system and in they in turn have got their chums to come in.

      They should stop immigration via arranged marriage, some countries are notorious for this. Foreign grooms should be a minimum of 35 years of age and a foreign bride a minimum of 28 years of age.

      The Australian immigration system is much thougher and better….

      I am not anti-immigration, in a globalised world we need people from different countries.

      A lot of the peopel who moved into Newham 35 years ago, have moved on to nicer area, it is causing a ripple effect….

  • david

    You have in reverse what we have in Westminster. Both in 2001 and 2011 the mid-year estimates just before the Census have shown tens of thousands more people in Westminster than the Census went on to find.

  • Rob

    This just goes to show that Ed Miliband has not gone far enough in de toxifying the immigration problem for Labour.

    Open door immigration, which is what the Labour government permitted in a ll but name, has led to demands on housing, social services, transport, health and education that are totally unsustainble.

    Come on Labour people, tell me, as a member in north west London. How the hell do I canvess for voters to pay more taxes to support people who have just arrived, or may not even have any right to be here. If population grwoth through immigration continues, we can kiss the Welfare State goodbye.

    That IS NOT a price worth paying. Enough. 

  • Alexwilliamz

    In answer to the title question: People move?

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