Venue: Department of the Taoiseach
Date: December 8 2008, 11:00-14:00
Mr. Brendan Walsh chaired the meeting. The following members also attended: Ms. Mary Doyle, Mr. Michael McGrath, Mr. Danny McCoy, Ms. Pat O’Hara, Mr. Paul Sweeney, Mr. Gerry O’Hanlon
CSO Assistant Director General Mr. Bill Keating also attended. Mr. Gerry Brady acted as Secretary. Apologies were received from Mr. Con Lucey.
These were approved without amendment.
For 2009, the CSO will be working within a reduced budgetary environment to meet all current demands. To stay within budget, the CSO is applying a strict vacancy management policy, supervised at Senior Management Committee (SMC) level, and are actively controlling all other costs. It will be very challenging to meet all user expectations in the more difficult economic environment. The Senior Management Committee is currently reviewing the strategic challenges which we face and how we can best position the organisation to meet those challenges in a changing environment.
The CSO recently hosted a Eurostat Dialogue Visit to examine our reporting of Government Debt and Deficit under the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP). The Department of Finance and the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland also participated. No issues that would result in significant revisions to the data resulted.
CSO is represented at a Task Force on the consequences for government accounting of the current financial turmoil. This is likely to lead to a consultation of the Committee for Monetary, Financial and Balance of Payments Statistics (CMFB) on the treatment of the various government interventions.
A first set of tables for pilot Health Accounts are being examined this week. The final report of the consultants is due to be completed in January. This will include recommendations as to who should compile these accounts in the future.
The QNHS is canvassing users for proposals for modules for the Quarterly National Household Survey for the period 2010–2012. Previous canvasses were conducted in 1996, 2002 and 2006. The results of the canvass will be presented to the Board to select the two modules to be undertaken in 2010, and to tentatively indicate their priorities for 2011 and 2012.
First results from the post-census National Disability Survey were published on October 23rd. Further reports will be published in 2009. The results from the 2007 Survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC) were published on Dec 3rd.
Development of the 2009/2010 Household Budget Survey is now progressing as the budget has been confirmed. The principal objective is to launch the fieldwork by the middle of 2009.
The first phase of the consultation exercise with the public on Census 2011 has now concluded. Two meetings of the Census Advisory Group were held and it has been decided to run with two questionnaire versions in the pilot test planned for April 2009. The pilot, which will cover 8,000 households in 32 enumeration areas throughout the country, will also test revised collection geography based on the Geodirectory (national address database). The result of the pilot is planned for Autumn 2009.
A number of new activities commenced during 2008. New surveys covering the activities of Irish subsidiaries and affiliates abroad, and the turnover broken down by product or commodity were launched. Both data streams are required following the enactment of new EU legislation. First results from both surveys are scheduled for mid-2009. In addition a new monthly Services Turnover Index will be conducted from January 2009. The new Services Price Index is making good progress. First "experimental" results will be transmitted to Eurostat on December 18th. Results will most likely not be published nationally until further analysis is done and a longer time series has built up.
Considerable progress has been made this year in compiling a set of structural data for the financial sectors. In cooperation with Balance of Payments and the Central Bank, datasets for credit institutions and insurance are being constructed from existing data holdings. For pensions, the Pensions Board have enacted legislation allowing them to collect some basic data on the pensions sector. CSO should be in a position to launch a structural pensions survey in 2010, using the Pensions Board data as a sampling and grossing frame. The CSO have commenced discussions with the Irish Bankers Federation to try and secure access to credit card/debit card data for the purposes of developing new statistics on the retail sector, internet sales, tourism accommodation etc.
It has been agreed with Sustainable Energy Ireland to launch a joint CSO-SEI Business Energy Survey. The current energy questions from the structural business surveys (SBS) will be dropped and replaced by a more comprehensive set of targeted energy questions. This new survey will operate a considerably smaller sample than the existing SBS, and so, despite the additional questions, should be "response burden" neutral.
The StatCentral web portal (www.statcentral.ie) was officially launched on the 3rd of December. The portal contains information on statistics from the CSO and other government departments and agencies. For each statistic (such as Life expectancy, Air quality, or Energy indicators), StatCentral provides a separate web page of standard documentation, which includes a summary of the contents of the statistic, the organisation involved, frequency, start date, timeliness, and who to contact for further information. The Board requested that a permanent link to the StatCentral website be put on the homepage of the CSO website.
A CSO Statistician was recently assigned to the Probation Service while the filling of a new post from the PAS panel in the Department of Social and Family Affairs is underway. The Department of Health and Children has also given high priority to the secondment of an experienced Statistician to the Office of the Minister for Children.
The Director General of the CSO was elected to the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians in June. The Conference, which involves the heads of all national statistical organisations in the UNECE and OECD regions (plus a small number of South American countries), provides a forum for coordinating and developing statistical activities throughout much of the developed world.
The Director General has also accepted a nomination for the Chairmanship in 2009/2010 of the Partnership Group, which organises the work of the EU's Statistical Programme Committee (i.e. the committee of Directors General of the NSIs).
In the ensuing discussions, there was reference made to the need for more detailed analyses of the pay differentials between public sector and private sector employees in analyses of the National Employment Survey. For example, there may be significant differences in educational attainment, period of employment etc. that would need to be taken into account in understanding differences.
There was also a debate regarding priorities and integration of environment statistics. It was agreed that a paper should be brought to the next NSB meeting discussing topics such as: the respective roles of different organisations in data collection, methodology, data strategies in the areas of material flow accounts, waste and water (possible examination of Local Authorities data holdings); climate change statistical indicators; and dissemination options including the possibility of an indicators report on sustainable development.
No significant progress has been made by the inter-departmental group since the preparation of a draft scoping study document in June. Issues remain around data collection and sharing (CSO can only share data for statistical purposes). There is an urgent need for the CSO to progress this issue to fully benefit from the statistical value of administrative records. The recently concluded CSO examination of administrative records in Revenue may result in a Memorandum of Understanding concerning ongoing data access by the CSO to Revenue data. The CSO is willing to examine the benefits of incorporating the Revenue unique identifier into its statistical management and collection of business data. Such a strategy could usefully inform future developments in relation to a unique business identifier. The Board endorsed the proposal of CSO to make more use of Revenue identifiers although the work of the inter-departmental group was still the priority long-term approach, and the work towards the introduction of a unique business identifier and associated business register should be continued as a priority.
There has been little recent progress in the introduction of postcodes. However the Ordnance Survey is in the process of finalising the boundaries of a set of new small output areas. The Board saw value in the need for such output areas of around 80-100 households on average, and also in the need for a more detailed spatial identifier such as that developed by some private sector companies, e.g. http://www.irishpostcodes.ie/ and http://www.ticode.ie/. There was an urgent need for public awareness and use of a small area identifier such as a spatial code or postcode. The introduction of such an identifier could increase competitiveness by, for example, introducing significant efficiencies into service delivery and policy evaluation, and reducing transport costs. Such a spatial identifier could be integrated into vehicle navigation systems which would greatly facilitate address finding in rural areas. Administrative data files such as those held by various large government departments could be analysed at a detailed geographical level to refine and improve service delivery.
A more developed draft of the strategy was presented at the meeting. The Board was asked to consider whether the current draft was developing in the right direction. There was consensus that the current draft had developed well. The 2009-2014 period will be used to consolidate recent developments rather than to roll-out many new initiatives. Statistics in the areas of environment, energy, transport and innovation were seen as areas where some new developments may be needed.
It was agreed that another draft will be circulated in late January. Comments received on that draft will be incorporated into the draft for the next NSB meeting.
The next meeting will be on February 16th in the Department of the Taoiseach at 11:00.
 Professor emeritus Economics Department, UCD.