Public health statistics could cease to be published amid wave of budget cuts ONS statisicians also looking at 'a significant reduction in the scale' of David Cameron's 'wellbeing programme'
A complete halt to the publication of politically sensitive official statistics on smoking, drinking, teenage pregnancies and infant mortality, is being considered for a programme of cuts being drawn up by the Office of National Statistics, documents show.
The statisicians are also looking at "a significant reduction in the scale" of David Cameron's pet "well-being programme" including its analysis of inequalities in Britain and making "significant savings" in the orchestration of the official crime survey from next year onwards.
Details of potential cuts to 23 separate sets of official statistics are outlined in a "restricted" annex to a letter from Glen Watson, the ONS's director-general, sent to other government departments during the recent Treasury spending round, which have been seen by the Guardian.
A spokesman for the ONS confirmed a public consultation on a programme of cuts is to begin within the next month. "Challenging and difficult decisions will need to be made," said a spokesman. Details of the body's Treasury funding for the next three years were only finalised this week.
The letter has sparked alarm amongst health campaigners and the research community who point to the fact that several of the statistical series under threat of the axe, such as teenage conceptions, involve issues where Britain fares poorly in the international comparisons.
Watson says in the letter, dated 5 April, that the ONS is facing "severe funding pressures" but their ability to find savings is restricted because over 80% of their work is required under EU law.
"The scale of reductions in 2013/14, 2014/15 and those likely in 2015/16 mean that significant reductions in statistical outputs would be necessary unless we can secure additional funding from HM Treasury, or directly from other departments. My priority will be to make sure that we can continue to meet the legal requirements placed on ONS, and to ensure that the statistics we do produce are of sufficiently high quality," says Watson.
The letter says that depending on the outcome of discussions with the UK Statistics Authority and the Treasury a public consultation on a programme of cuts would have to begin shortly afterwards.
The annex reveals that the ONS proposed to "stop all statistics on smoking and drinking" and notes that the collection had "already been reduced after the Health and Social Care Information Centre withdrew funding"already been reduced. Other datasets under threat are the ONS's contribution to the cancer survival statistics, ending the publication of analysis of healthy life expectancy figures, and a reducing the coding and analysis of cause of death data to the legally required minimum.
In other areas, the ONS has proposed stopping its labour market analysis, its pension analysis, its annual article on taxes and benefits and halting publication of public sector productivity figures. The Guardian