Office for National Statistics to stay in Wales “for the long term”, Matt Hancock confirms

Cabinet office minister Matt Hancock says the ONS - which moved out of London in the mid-2000s - will stay in Newport to to act as a "big data hub" in the region

By Civil Service World

26 Feb 2016

The Office for National Statistics will maintain its headquarters in South Wales “for the long term”, cabinet office minister Matt Hancock has said.

The ONS — which produces most of the UK’s official economic statistics — opted to move most of its functions outside of London in the mid-2000s, instead focusing its work in Newport in south east Wales, and Titchfield in Hampshire.

An independent review of the statistics authority — published in December and led by former Bank of England governor Sir Charlie Bean — said the move had resulted in the loss of 90% of the ONS’s London-based staff, and had had a detrimental impact on the quality of its work.

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But while Bean called on the ONS to increase its London profile, he recommended that the ONS continued to build up capability in Newport and said it would “make little sense to contemplate reversing the original move”. 

Speaking on a visit to the ONS’s Newport site this week, Hancock  said: “The ONS is increasingly a digital data business, and I’m here to make clear that that’s going to stay in Newport, that’s a decision that we’ve taken.”

He added: “The UK Statistics Authority already has a presence in London and it’s important for statisticians to be able to talk to senior policymakers and ministers in London, but the ONS is going to be based in Newport, and that’s our decision. But more than that, given that we’ve made that decision we want to expand this data-driven, big data hub in South Wales right across the public and private sectors.”

According to Wales Online, Hancock would not be drawn on whether the ONS would seek to take on new staff in light of the confirmation it would stay in south Wales.

But he said the impact of technology meant there would be “fewer paper-based processing jobs” and “undoubtedly more opportunities in the digital sphere”.

The Cabinet Office minister in January announced plans to drastically reduce the size of the government estate over the next decade, with the total number of buildings occupied by departments set to fall from 800 to under 200 by 2023.

As part of those plans, departments and agencies will be expected to share office space in around 20 combined “hubs” across the country.

Civil service chief executive John Manzoni told CSW this month that that the future for government departments was “going to be predominantly in shared space”.

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