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                        NATIONAL STATISTICS
        NATURAL AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT THEME WORKING GROUP
                    MINUTES OF MEETING 28th November 2002



                            COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT

Bruce Oelman          ODPM (Chair)                        Duncan Gray         SE
Frances Pottier       DTI                                 John Custance       DEFRA
Susan White           DTI                                 Dennis Down         ODPM
Barbara Noble         ODPM                                Rocky Harris        ONS
Chris Bryant          DTI                                 Henry Small         NAW


                                     SECRETARIAT

Chris Chantler        NSPD, ONS


                                     CIRCULATION

All participants

Absent Members:
Chris Morris          NISRA

Others for information:
Mike Hughes           DfT                                 Lucy de Jong        DfT



                                                                              Action:

1. Item 1: Minutes of the last meeting

2. The minutes were approved.

3. Matters arising not elsewhere on the agenda:

   Item 4: Guidance on expanding the scope of National Statistics would be   Secretary
    sent to Barbara

   Item 14: Compliance statements with the Protocol on Release Practices
    are being drafted by departments to meet the end-of-year deadline. This
    work had highlighted a number of issues that could be usefully shared
    amongst TWG members



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   The Secretary reported that a HoPs sub-group had been established some         Secretary
    months ago to provide a steer on Code implementation. He would feed
    TWG concerns to the sub-group Secretary.

4. Item 2: Resources

5. Machinery of government changes have seen the responsibilities of DTLR
   split between the DfT and ODPM. Peter Capell had recently been
   appointed as the Head of Profession for ODPM.

6. This change has resulted in a lack of resources in ODPM to support the
   TWG. DTI had volunteered Susan to act as Editor for the next Work
   Programme, but unless central resources are secured, the TWG will seek
   volunteers each time an annual report or work programme is required.

7. Item 3: NS Work Programme (Paper NBE 2002(4))

8. This paper was introduced by the Secretary.
9. The paper outlined developing thinking to link the production of the Work
   Programme to the departmental Spending Review process. The paper
   addressed two issues:

   to reduce the burden on producers by publishing the workplan in hard copy
    every two years, rather than annually. Electronic updates will be produced,
    as appropriate, periodically in-between; and

   in response to user concerns about the consultation process, major
    consultation exercises will be held every two years, to feed into the
    departmental bids as part of the Spending Review processes. The
    expectation is that by linking the two, departmental plans benefit from this
    early opportunity to canvass user views. Future Theme plans will then be
    written once the Spending Review has been announced. This consultation
    would begin next year and feed into the SR 2004.

10. The Secretary reported that the timetable for this work programme was to
    publish in March 2003. However, consideration was being given to
    publishing in summer 2003. This would allow departments more time to
    settle Spending Review allocations and therefore supply firmly funded          Secretary
    developments to the work programme. As soon as these thoughts had
    developed they would be circulated to all TWG members.

11. The TWG then discussed the draft Theme chapter. Because of the
    disparate nature of the Theme, the difficulty was recognised of pulling it
    together to present a cohesive Theme plan. There was particular concern
    to ensure that the chapter was inclusive of work undertaken in the
    devolved administrations at an administration as well as UK level. The
    outcomes were:

   TWG members would feed back initial thoughts on drivers, key issues and
    developments to Susan by 20 December                                           All

   Guidance on prioritising developments would be circulated by NSPD, after       NSPD
    which TWG members can feed theirs back to the Editor

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   The TWG would revise the strategy outlining the direction of the Theme.
    This would include outlining the remit of the Theme, the key issues and
    drivers

   All agreed that user expectations must be managed and that there was an
    understanding of the context within which the plan is written. Resources
    will determine what is possible, users should be made aware of this, but it
    should not hamper open consultation.

   It was agreed that an annex setting out the coverage of the Theme and the
    major developments would add be useful. The TWG should share
    experience and knowledge of developments and present a cohesive
    strategy for developments that represent involvement from all the
    administrations, and not focus on Whitehall departments.
                                                                                    All/Editor
   This would be compiled in January.

12. Item 4: National Statistics Quality Reviews (Paper NBE 2002 (5))

13. The Secretary introduced this paper. In recognition of the ongoing burden
    placed on business areas in conducting quality reviews the Methodology
    and Programme Board had recently met and agreed to revise the process.
    This revised guidance would be circulated shortly.

14. The paper also proposes an expanded ‘quality annex’ of the work
    programme, to include quality and methodology work carried out in
    addition to the formal quality reviews. This is to bring into focus the large
    amount of other quality work undertaken across departments. This work
    will be commissioned by ONS and TWG members are asked begin                     NSPD/All
    thinking of suitable work to include.

15. The TWG agreed to revisit their quality review programme once new
    guidance was available. The TWG will draft a narrative to explain how the       All
    Theme is taking forward quality and methodology, of which the review
    programme forms only part.

16. The devolved administrations reported that resources made it difficult for
    them to develop specific review programmes. It was similarly difficult to
    conduct reviews at the UK level given that few series are collected for the
    UK. The devolved administration’s approach to date has been to either
    play a small role in a large review carried out in England and Wales, or
    await the outcome of a review and draw on the recommendations.

17. The group then discussed recent quality review activity and general quality
    methodology work:

   Construction: Completed. Recommendations are being implemented

   Housing and People: user consultation has finished (this included
    seminars and questionnaire feedback). Work is underway to look at
    methodological issues and the possible merger of EHCS and SEH,
    though early indications on the latter suggest a merger might require
    considerable pruning of the questions. Emerging findings will be discussed
    with the devolved administrations. A copy of the PID and any papers would

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    be sent to the Secretary.
                                                                                  Barbara Noble
   In Scotland, Duncan reported that the SHCS will become continuous.
    Work is also underway to look at merging surveys along the lines of the
    Integrated Social Survey project in ONS.

18. Resource problems have delayed progress on any of the DEFRA National
    Statistics quality reviews but quality initiatives are being taken forward:

   Assessment of the quality of publications had been undertaken

   A review of headline indicators of birds was planned for next year

   DEFRA are looking at the feasibility of forging partnerships with NGOs to
    assist in furthering quality work

   The review on Water will cover England and Wales data only. UK
    coverage may be something that can be considered during the scoping of
    the review.

   Waste – a recent strategic review of information on waste has identified
    gaps and it is hoped that this will provide levers for funding the review

   Land use and planning – no progress to report on this review

   Dwelling stock – a project has recently started looking at ways of
    improving the quality of house building data

19. The TWG wished to pass their concerns about the resource burden
    involved in conducting NS quality reviews to the Quality and Methodology      Secretary
    Programme Board.

20. Item 5: International Issues (Paper NBE 2002(6))

21. This paper was introduced by the Secretary. It outlines theme-specific
    details of the current work programme in Europe.

22. TWG members were asked to note the information and consider whether           All
    there were areas where more international activity was appropriate, and
    whether the ‘international’ section of the Theme plan could be
    amended/added to.

23. The paper outlined environmental developments only and International
    Branch in ONS have undertaken to provide Theme specific information.

24. John Custance reported that he had recently attended an international
    meeting to discuss programmes similar to those outlined in the paper and
    was interested to know more about their compilation. He will discuss with     John Custance
    International Branch.

25. Item 6: Sub National issues

26. The Theme provided updates on Neighbourhood Statistics activity:

27. Under the data domain covering housing and households, two datasets for

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    England and Wales have been developed covering dwellings by Council
    Tax Bands and House Prices, both at ward level.

28. The possibility of developing a national property database is being
    investigated with the Valuation Office Agency.

29. A pilot project is in progress to create a source for GB data on all new
    social lettings by extending the existing system used for RSL lettings to
    local authority housing.

30. Scotland reported the development of datasets on council tax bands,
    house prices, a national property database (similar to that being developed
    in England and Wales) and council house sales. Also, research is being
    conducted into a database of rented property

31. Work is ongoing to develop datasets on Air Quality and Abandoned
    Vehicles

32. Wales have created a Local Authority Data Unit to take forward NeSS

33. A number of developments were reported on land use and planning:
   Information on Vacant Commercial and Industrial Space
   Floorspace and Rateable Value of Commercial and Industrial Premises
   Liveability, including Urban Open Spaces
   Town Centre Statistics
   National Land Use Database - Previously Developed Land

34. The Secretary reported that an update note on regional statistics would be
    issued with the common briefing note.

35. Item 7: Census

36. ODPM have begun work on a multi-source topic report on housing and
    households which will be developed in collaboration with the devolved
    administrations.

37. Scotland reported that they may draw data from the additional questions in
    the Scottish Census.

38. Item 8: UK Perspective

39. A lot of this discussion had already occurred under other topics on the
    agenda. The Theme wanted to ensure that it operated effectively at the UK
    level and provided direction for the development of statistics within its
    remit. As discussed earlier, the Theme would address this by developing a
    strategy for inclusion in the theme chapter being drafted for the next work
    programme.

40. Item 9. User consultation

41. Given the recent thinking on the planning process and the move towards
    linking user consultation to the Spending Review, the Theme discussed its
    various consultation mechanisms.


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42. It was recognised, given the importance of conducting a thorough
    consultation next year, that all avenues should be considered and that
    careful planning is required. It was therefore decided that the TWG will
    bring forward its March meeting to February, to provide time to plan and
    organise the consultations.

43. Recent activity reported:

44. The Housing Statistics User Group (HSUG) is developing a programme of
    work and recently held joint meetings with the Financial Statistics User
    Group to discuss the housing market and with ODPM to discuss the
    Housing and People review.

45. The Environmental Statistics Advisory Committee had discussed the
    possibility of establishing an Environmental Statistics User Group. It was     John Custance
    thought that such a group would prove useful in managing user
    expectation in terms of developments in this area. John would look into this
    using the recently established HSUG as a model.

46. Scotland reported that their various user consultation groups continued to
    work well with producers

47. Wales had few direct contacts with user groups to discuss Welsh issues.
    It was thought that Welsh issues could be picked up through HSUG, and
    that HSUG itself might develop a UK role.

48. The construction group CCCIS had recently met and discussed, amongst
    other things SIC 2007 and had a presentation of the electronic data
    capture project on construction orders.

49. Item 10: National Statistics website

50. TWG members had used the new site and experienced problems in using
    it. It was difficult to find details of the TWG and the list of
    publications/outputs was extremely limited in extent. It appeared to be        Chris Chantler
    aimed at the occasional browser rather than the serious user. The
    Secretary would pass this on to the website team.

51. Item 11: Any other business

52. As previously discussed, the TWG agreed to meet in late February,
    primarily to discuss the various user consultation mechanisms to be
    employed to feed into the Spending Review 2004.




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