The next Census will take place on 27th March 2011. Every household in England and Wales needs to complete....
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2011 Census - What do I need to do?

Posted on January 22, 2011

This article was published in January 2011. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

2011 CensusThe next Census will take place on 27th March 2011. Every household in England and Wales needs to complete a questionnaire so that statistics about the population can be produced.

Government money for health, police, councils and other public service providers is allocated according to the population of an area, so it is vital that everyone is counted. Make sure your area gets its fair share of Government money.

Questionnaires will be delivered from 7th March so look out for the purple logo, and complete and return the form as soon as you can.

Who needs to be included on the form?

Everyone who lives at your address. This includes family, newborn babies, lodgers, and students who live somewhere else during term time. People who are staying in the country for 3 months or more must be included. The number of visitors staying overnight on 27th March can also be included.

Why should I take part?

All citizens have a duty to complete the census questionnaire.

Businesses and local services need to know how many people live in their area, and other important information about your gender, age, ethnicity and about your housing. This ensures that the right services are available in the right place. It is also a legal requirement, and refusal to complete the questionnaire may result in prosecution and a fine.

How do I complete my questionnaire?

You can choose whether to complete the questionnaire on-line or by hand.

Every questionnaire has a unique code to enable completion at The questionnaire pack contains a prepaid return envelope if you prefer to post it back.

The questionnaire has enough room for six people. It takes only 10 minutes for each adult, and much less for each child. If you have more than 6 people in your household, request additional individual questionnaires from the website or telephone 0300 0201 101.

I don't have a computer, but I want to complete on-line

No problem. You can use the computers at public libraries, or you can visit one of the completion events that are taking place at various locations in your area. Check with your local council where and when these are happening. Some events are shown below.

I need help or someone I know needs help to complete the questionnaire?

There is lots of help available. From 4th March you can telephone 0300 0201 101 to request guidance in over 50 languages and in accessible formats such as large print, Braille and British Sign language. You can also request a personal visit from a Census Collector who will come to your home. The number for text relay for hard of hearing is 18001 0300 0201 160. Many community groups are holding events to help local people complete their questionnaires. Check the location, dates and times with your local council. The Census website contains lots of information about the Census at

What happens if I don't return my questionnaire?

From 6th April Census Collectors will visit households that have not returned their questionnaire. They will carry identification and will offer help and assistance, or answer your questions about the census questionnaire. To avoid a Census Collector knocking on your door, just return your questionnaire promptly after 27th March.

People who refuse to complete a census questionnaire will be investigated, and this may lead to prosecution and a fine.

Useful information

Information about the census, and census events in your area can be found on the Central Bedfordshire website.

You can also contact the Census Area Manager, Jan Esson on 07801 331386 or email [email protected]

Census questionnaire completion events

If you need help, want to ask questions, or want to complete your census questionnaire on-line, please come along to one of the completion events. Check the local council website for the latest information.

These are the events arranged so far:

  • Monday 28th March at Kempston Library 11am to 4pm
  • Wednesday 30th March at Bedford Learning Centre, 88 High Street, Bedford 10am to 2pm
  • Saturday 2nd April at Bedford Learning Centre 9am to 1pm
  • Monday 4th April at Sandy Library 10am to 3pm
  • Wednesday 6th April at Bedford Learning Centre 10am to 2pm
  • Saturday 9th April at Bedford Learning Centre 9am to 1pm
  • Monday 11th April at Putnoe Library 2pm to 5pm
  • Wednesday 20th April at Putnoe Library 2pm to 5pm


Reader Comments

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January 25, 2011, Richard Craven says:

In 2001, approximately 1.5 million people did not comply with the legal obligation to complete a census. There were 38 prosecutions. Ergo, in 2001 there was roughly a 1 in 394,000 chance of being prosecuted for non-compliance. Following the announcement by Francis Maude that the census is to be scrapped after 2011, it seems very likely that this year non-compliance rates will be significantly higher, and the risk of prosecution correspondingly lower.

I explicitly refused to complete the census in 2001, in the face of a series of empty threats, and warmly urge others to do so this time. Each individual refusal is vanishingly unlikely to provoke prosecution.

January 25, 2011, Joe Plumb says:

To quote the FT: "To get to that point the Tories (or coalition) have to win the 2015 election and then the 2020 election. And still be in a cost-cutting mood."

The suggestion by Francis Maude is not a new idea and nothing appears to have been mentioned in detail (even on his own website) since his comments last July.

Can I ask what your reasons behind not wanting to complete the 2001 census were and what, if any comeback you had because of this choice?

January 29, 2011, Richard Craven says:

By all means. I appreciate that public servants find the census useful for purposes of planning and the allocation of funds. Nevertheless, considerations of privacy trump this pragmatic argument. When a government official demands on pain of prosecution that I hand over the details of my private life, for me non-compliance is second nature. In fact, I am puzzled as to why, in a mature civil society long accustomed to freedom of expression and assembly, non-compliance with the more peremptory demands of authority is not more widespread.

Secondly, there is documentary evidence that, for all the government's assurances about confidentiality, the census has been accessed in the past by the security services and the police.

Thirdly, the government's recent track record in the safeguarding of personal data has been utterly woeful, and I would have thought it obvious that the census presents ample scope for further transgressions. I for one will not hand over my data to an organization which is likely to be so cavalier with it.

Fourthly, I can afford the fine, even in the very, very unlikely circumstance that I am prosecuted for non-complicance.

As to the second part of your question, I experienced two or three follow-up visits, and was told that my stance rendered me liable to prosecution. I just laughed, and told my interlocutor that we both knew perfectly well that her threat was idle.

February 18, 2011, James Baker says:

Well said Richard.

February 18, 2011, Richard Craven says:


Thanks! And a fifth argument:-

1. Suppose the government always follows through on their threat to prosecute census refuseniks.

2. Assume for simplification that 1 million individuals refuse. This is a conservative assumption, since (a) at least 1.5 million refused in 2001; (b) following the governement's intimation that the census is to be scrapped after 2011, it is probable that even more people will refuse.

3. By 1 & 2 above, the government prosecutes 1 million people - fully 2% of the UK's population.

4. By 3 plus one or two obvious assumptions about the capacity of the legal system, the legal system is overwhelmed.

Conclusion:- The government cannot follow through on their threat to prosecute census refuseniks, without overwhelming the legal system. So they won't. They will probably select a few dozen cases for prosecution as a face-saving exercise.

February 22, 2011, pete says:

i agree what can they do or you have to do is give the doorstep jobsworths a false name if they proceed with the procecution you just return the letter not known at this far as i know its not illegal to submit your ID on your own property ..if so i have a few false ones anyway,so i will be refusing it ,my buisness is my buisness and i will decide who to share it with not some stranger

February 26, 2011, Richard Craven says:

Well said. Refuse, politely but firmly, to give your name or any other information.

March 7, 2011, X says:

This year, the Government have asked a US Arms Company to process the information. This raises obvious questions about the US having access to all your personal information.

Under the Patriot Act, all information gathered by any US Company can be passed back to the CIA and the FBI, as far as I am aware.

I would not like to guarantee that the Government of the UK is TRUSTWORTHY enough to have my personal information.

March 8, 2011, Richard Craven says:


The involvement in the Census of a UK subsidiary of Lockheed Martin may pose a problem for those who object to dealing with arms manufacturers.

However, I understand that the neither the UK subsidiary nor the parent company in the U.S. will have any access to our private data, so your worries about data-transfer are vanishingly unlikely to be realized.

In short, I think that to oppose the Census on the basis of Lockheed-related data-transfer worries misses the point, which is simply that we ought to resist authority's attempts to coerce the disclosure of our private business.

Moreover, the Lockheed-related data-transfer objection involves some decidedly specious reasoning, the appeal to which is likely to do long-term damage to the anti-Census position. The Census should be opposed, but it should be opposed for the right reasons.

April 4, 2011, Bill Mair says:

Not only is the company processing the Census information a subsidiary of an American arms manufacturer, but it is in fact CACI, who were the company complicit in human rights abuses in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

April 9, 2011, Chris Smith says:

I refused to fill in the census for several reasons. One particular reason was being threatened by a fine! Got a knock at the door today by one of the census staff. I did not open the door. I thought, so long as I don't open the door etc.. they won't know who "The occupier" is. I suppose if I do not open the door to anyone, unless it is an expected visitor, the census people will give up? What do you think, anybody?

April 12, 2011, Richard Craven says:

That's a perfectly reasonable way of going about this business. Personally, I prefer to take a fairly robust approach, which involves openly refusing to complete the Census, and ordering the Census officer - politely - off my land. I don't give them my name, as it is impossible for them to prosecute a house.

April 28, 2011, Richard Craven says:

Very nice call from the chief local Census manager. She says my withdrawal of implied access rights has worked as far as she's concerned. And it's quite clever, because she can't pass my name on to the compliance people as an outright refusal.

I must say that her tone was extremely courteous. Very nice person.

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