Venue: Department of the Taoiseach
Date: November 29, 2010 at 11:00
Dr Patricia O’Hara chaired the meeting and welcomed the new Board appointed on October 12. The meeting scheduled for September 16th was deferred pending the appointment the Board. The current Board appointments are for three years to October 12th 2013.
The following members attended: Mr. Ciaran Dolan, Professor Philip Lane, Mr Fergal O’Brien, Mr. Paul Sweeney, Mr Gerry O’Hanlon
CSO Assistant Director Generals Mr. Aidan Punch and Mr. Padraig Dalton also attended. Apologies were received from Mr. Michael McGrath. Mr Gerry Brady acted as Secretary. Mr. John Shaw attended on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach, pending the appointment of a representative from the Department.
The Chairperson noted the promotions of Mr. Aidan Punch and Mr. Padraig Dalton to Assistant Director General levels in the CSO and the retirement of Mr. Bill Keating and Ms. Siobhan Carey. The two resulting vacancies at Director level have not been filled.
The minutes were accepted without amendment.
The Board agreed that the current postcodes format proposal would meet the needs of official statistics as long as the boundaries of administrative areas, such as counties and Electoral Divisions, and the the new Small Areas which will be used in Census 2011, were respected. However the Board noted the increased and widespread use of GPS devices and latitude and longitude (X,Y) coordinates as address identifiers by service providers. The 2011 Census of Population will capture the grid co-ordinates of every household. A spatial postcode would give Ireland a competitive advantage internationally and make optimum use of trends in technology. The Board asked to be kept informed of any further progress.
Previous discussions on the QNHS modules for 2011 did not include the Adult Education Survey which was intended to be undertaken as a stand-alone survey. However current economic circumstances require that it be conducted as a QNHS module. There are around 140 questions in the AES, hence it needs to be the focus of three waves of Quarter 3 2011 and three waves of Quarter 4 2011 (the same households). Each wave represents 5,000-6,000 households and is representative of the population.
The CSO proposed adding a few additional questions to the core QNHS relating to labour force participation in households and possibly other areas of interest (e.g. indebtedness). There is capacity to include other modules in two waves of Quarters 3 and 4 in 2011 which would make it possible to conduct a restricted module on the proposed "green module" in Q3 or Q4 2011. However, the CSO suggested that it may be more appropriate to wait to include a full module on this issue in Q3 2012.
The Board agreed that the opportunity should be taken to collect information on adjustments in households that might provide a better insight on aspects of the recession at this level. Given the long-term importance of a range of issues including health and physical exercise, and the environment and evidence of adverse trends in these areas, the CSO should consider the inclusion of modules on these topics in the future. There are also demands on the CSO to undertake six new surveys as well as to repeat previous modules in the five-yearly cycle.
The CSO was requested to prepare a short paper outlining outline module plans and options for the coming years, including ways of adjusting the QNHS methodology in the light of increased demands for information, budget constraints, and limitations on replacement of field staff.
A major Lean Six Sigma process mapping exercise has been underway in the national accounts area over the past two to three months. The international trade statistics Lean Six Sigma exercise undertaken in the first half of 2010 has continued into an implementation phase. LSS exercises have also been undertaken in other parts of the office and the intention is to conduct them across all relevant areas.
A two day Excessive Deficit Procedure dialogue visit took place on 16th and 17th November. A Eurostat team consisting of four officials was accompanied by two other officials – one from DG ECFIN and the other from the ECB. The CSO team was accompanied at various stages by officials from the Central Bank, the Department of Finance, the National Assets Management Agency and the National Development Finance Agency. Feedback from the Eurostat director leading the delegation intimated that in the event of Ireland availing of a financial package from IMF/ECB then there would be more frequent monitoring based on short term statistics. Given that such a package has now been agreed, the CSO is currently assessing the implications for its statistical outputs.
The Environmental Protection Agency and CSO are in the process of developing a memorandum of understanding to formalise and extend the existing working relationship between the two organisations and to ensure that there is a high level of co-operation between them in meeting their respective statistical data collection and reporting responsibilities.
Planning for the 2011 Census of Population is progressing satisfactorily. The six Census Liaison Officers commenced employment on 27th September while the 44 Regional Supervisors started on 19th October. Interviews for Field Supervisors have been completed. The recruitment of Enumerators will commence in January 2011 and it is expected that approximately 15,000 persons will be interviewed for the 5,000 positions. To assist potential candidates, the CSO will post short information videos on the CSO website.
Work on the CPI Dec 2011 rebase has begun. This will be a particularly important rebase as the existing weights/products are likely to be very out of date given the expected level of changes in consumption patterns. The next CPI series will also see changes in methodology, including an annual updating of weights (using national accounts weights, as no continuous HBS are available). The treatment of mortgage interest will be updated to include tracker mortgages but the HICP may also move in the coming years to include house acquisition costs. The CSO are developing a House Purchase Price Index. It is expected this index will be launched in February or March of 2011. Timeliness of the EHECS and the Retail Sales Index has been improved significantly since Spring 2010. Q3 2010 will be published on the 9th of December.
Development of the new Services Turnover & Production indices is going to schedule. In 2010 the enterprise field force (used to follow up non-respondents) was disbanded as a cost-cutting measure. Preliminary 2009 returns suggest that the typical 70% response rate will fall to somewhere between 50 to 55%. This will most likely result in the level of detail being disseminated having to be reduced. The new Enterprise Statistics Group met for the first time in October.
In August 2010 the CSO introduced new content to the live register release including breakdowns by occupation and duration which were not previously available on the monthly release. The timeliness of quarterly earnings releases has been improved during the year. Work on PIACC (Programme for the international Assessment of Adult Competencies) is on target for the field work to commence in August 2011 and will last 28 weeks. It will be a stand alone survey and a special field team consisting of six Field Supervisors and 60 Interviewers will be recruited to undertake the fieldwork.
The staffing controls and financial cutbacks already in place have had an effect on some outputs in 2010. For example, the monthly tourism release has been reduced to a quarterly frequency, due to reduced staff capacity to collect the volume of data needed for monthly analysis. The 2011 budget situation will mean further activity cuts. Given its limited room to manoeuvre, the areas identified for cuts are essentially those where the CSO does not have a legal obligation to provide data. To stay within budget, the Senior Management Committee has decided on the following:
National Employment Survey: Reduction from annual to four-yearly frequency. This will be sufficient to meet EU requirements for structural earnings statistics every four years.
Health Accounts: Current work to develop a set of accounts, to show sources and allocation of expenditure by function for the health sector, will be curtailed. As there is currently no EU legal requirement for health accounts data, this does not have any EU compliance implications.
Regional Accounts and County Income Estimates: The compilation and publication of these more detailed analyses of the National Accounts will be curtailed.
Administrative Savings: We are reducing expenditure across a range of non-pay items, with more restricted allocations for travel, training, telecommunications, accommodation and IT costs.
Project Savings: We have reduced costs in the major once-off projects being undertaken in 2011 – i.e. the Census of Population and the ISI conference.
The CSO’s 2011-2013 statement of strategy is being prepared. While the strategy will reflect the NSB Strategy for Statistics, it will also need to reflect the climate of more limited resources and necessary re-prioritisation.
Concern was expressed by the Board at the proposed cut in the regional accounts and the CSO was asked to consider whether it is possible to continue this release as it provides important information for regional decision-making. There may also be some EU compliance implications.
The Board suggested that the CSO prepare an overview paper on trends in CSO staff numbers by grade with some international comparisons on staffing levels if possible and an indication of areas where investment in IT has had a significant impact. Changes in the composition of the permanent CSO field force should also be included. The possible impact on CSO outputs (publication of releases, timeliness, data quality etc.). should be included in the paper. This paper will assist the Board to assess our resource allocation.
There was concern expressed by the Board regarding the intentions of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment not to continue work towards the development of a unique business identifier. The CSO, IBEC, ISME and Forfás are all strongly supportive of the benefits and cost savings to be gained from the creation of a unique identifier and business register. The CSO was asked to provide an update on this topic for the next meeting.
Discussion on this item was deferred to the next meeting.
Discussion on this item was deferred to the next meeting.
The next meeting will be on January 18th, 2011 at 10:30 in the Department of the Taoiseach. A copy of the CSO Croke Park action plan should be circulated to the Board.