Inspiring Statistics
Jason Bradbury
National Statistician's Office, UK Statistics Authority, United Kingdom

The UK today has a decentralised statistical system with official statistics being produced by some 200 government departments, arms-length bodies, and bodies in the devolved administrations. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for many of the key macro-economic and demographic statistics and is recognised internationally as the UK's National Statistics Institute. Together, these bodies produce official statistics on more than 1,500 different topic areas.

This paper will seek to focus on how the UK National Statistician acts to inspire the GSS into action with limited power.

The UK Statistics Authority was established in 2008 with the statutory objective to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good, and more generally to promote good practice in relation to official statistics. As set out in the legislation, the Authority's main functions are: oversight of the ONS; monitoring and reporting on all official statistics, wherever produced; and independent assessment of the compliance of National Statistics with the Code of Practice. The Authority published a revised, and demanding, Code of Practice for Official Statistics in January 2009.

Wherever they sit in government, those involved in official statistics production are part of the Government Statistical Service (GSS). Whilst government statisticians work in and for the organisations that employ them, they are expected to follow the professional leadership of the National Statistician who is both a Whitehall Permanent Secretary and a member of the Authority Board. Formally she is also the Chief Executive of the Authority (which in this context includes all of ONS) and the principal adviser on the quality, good practice and comprehensiveness of official statistics. The Authority Board and National Statistician have formal powers in relation to the work of ONS, but not for the statistical work programme of government departments or the devolved administrations.

As well as the posts of Chair of the Authority Board and the National Statistician, the legislation also created the post of Head of Assessment, to be appointed by the non-executive members of the Board to advise on the compliance of official statistics with the Code of Practice and related matters. He is supported by a team that operates independently of the producers of statistics.

Keywords: Inspire; Influence; Power; Leadership

Biography: Jason is Director of Strategy in the UK National Statistician's Office.

The paper will focus on:

– National Statistician's Influence rather than Power, given the decentralised and devolved nature of the UK statistical system

– The role of the UK Statistics Authority and relationships with the NSO, producers and users (including government)

– The need for common vision and leadership

– Our UK approach to achieving shared GSS vision

– The implied leadership role of the NSI (i.e. ONS) in the UK

– Our approach to user engagement via Heads of Professions and, particularly for strategy, Theme Leaders

– Learning from each other, across the departmental boundaries

– Managing the finances and the work programme