• David Sharp
  • 3 December 2015

Relocation decision has impacted on ONS performance

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) should have given more thought to the consequences of its move from London to Newport in Wales, according to an interim report by Professor Sir Charles Bean.

The report forms part of an independent review of the operations and performance of ONS, which has come under criticism in recent years over the accuracy of the statistics it produces.

The report’s findings will be of interest to human resources and facilities management professionals, who make strategic decisions about how and where resources should be deployed to deliver the best value for the organisation.  

ONS’s move out of London reflects that of many large public sector bodies, including the BBC which relocated 850 staff from London to Salford in a move that was completed in April 2012. The move faced criticism in some quarters based on the cost of relocating some of the BBC’s senior talent. However, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in 2013 that the BBC did “a good job overall”.

Reviewing the ONS’s relocation of key staff to Newport over the last ten years, the Bean report suggests that the ‘brain drain’ that resulted from the move has had a negative impact on the performance of the statistical body, stating that “… many users argued that the weaknesses in ONS’s analytical capability were linked to the relocation of functions previously based in London to Newport, which resulted in a significant loss of experienced staff.”

The report goes on to state that: “… the loss of statistical expertise which resulted from the relocation decision has had a significant – though not necessarily permanent – detrimental effect on the capability of ONS and the quality of its outputs over the past decade..”

A copy of the Bean review is available here