About a month ago, I received an email from Mr H13208 who is our local 2011 Census Co-ordinator for Stockwell North and Vauxhall, whose job it is to "maximise coverage" of the census to ensure that Lambeth get their fair share of central government cash. He asked me for ideas on distribution and publicisation of the census. I note that the Prince's Ward SE11 Labour Action Team blog did a quick promotional "Remember to fill in your census form" post a few weeks ago and I've been pondering what to say (hence the delay).
Lambeth Council believes that it has historically missed out on central governent cash, recording only 272,000 people in the Borough in the last census in 2001. Apparently, Lambeth had the 10th lowest census completion rates at 79% for 2001. I'm speculating that there are a variety of reasons for that... Lambeth has an annual 20% population churn, multiple languages are spoken throughout the borough, I suspect that literacy may not be high amongst recent migrants, and finally, Lambeth residents likely avoid filling in official government forms, especially if they don't have leave to remain or do not wish to draw their presence to the attention of the Council, fearing that the central Government is not their friend for one reason or another!
Even the Office of National Statistics noted that "the population, particiularly in London, is less compliant and less likely to respond to surveys than it was 10 years ago". All in all, the Lambeth population is not an easy one to count and that doesn't bode well for Lambeth Council in its efforts to ensure that it receives a fair share of the central government pot. But if the Council can get an extra 10,000 people to complete the census, Lambeth could receive something in the region of £60 million over the next 10 years. Consequently, the Council has been putting on a variety of events to try and persuade a whole variety of groups (elderly, Portuguese speakers, Muslim mothers, youth, African language speakers etc.) to fill out their forms.
The problem is that whilst I really want Lambeth to receive all of its cash, I'm am not happy that our previous Labour government awarded part of the contract for the 2011 census (and the 2001 census, although I didn't know it then) to one of the world's premier arms dealers, a US company named Lockheed Martin. This presents two issues; firstly, the profits made from the completion of the UK census will go to Lockheed Martin and could contribute to furthering weapons production. The second issue is that the US Patriot act makes it possible for the US government to obtain information from any US company, and the UK government has not done much to reassure citizens that UK census data couldn't end up in the hands of the USA.
This presented me with something of a quandry when it came to mentioning the census on Lurking about SE11. Whilst I very much want to ensure that our local services are not cut back any further than they should be, I did not wish to support Lockheed Martin. The Guardian ran a useful article on Boycotting the 2011 census. What to do? I've not said anything at all until now (and I'm presuming that quite a number of readers will have submitted already). Fortunately, I was sent a useful "how to fill in your census form" link from Peace News which suggests a multitude of fun and annoying ways to submit the census truthfully, help the local authority collect its money and at the same time reduce Lockheed Martin's profits and encourage them to employ people for additional hours (a good thing in the current economic climate). If you've still to submit your census form, and benefitting a major arms producer is a concern for you (which I recognise it won't be for many), do consider their suggestions