Press release

£17 million investment to make Wales a global leader in statistics and data

Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock has unveiled new plans to create a world-class data science hub in Wales.

In this week’s budget, the government announced funding of over £10 million for the ground-breaking project that will modernise the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to produce more innovative, precise and timely statistics.

This will be part of an overall £17 million investment, which includes additional ONS funding.

Based at ONS in Newport, the new Data Science Campus and Economics Centre of Excellence will create at least 30 highly skilled roles. It will build new technology skills within the existing regional workforce, propelling the UK forward as a global leader for data and statistics.

The centre will focus on using techniques to change the way we manage and use data through cutting edge techniques such as web scraping. This will provide unique and real time monitoring of the economy and UK labour market directly from public and private sources.

The Economics Centre of Excellence will improve capability to measure the changes in the UK’s digital economy, pushing the frontiers of economic measurement globally.

The move to invest in ONS in Wales comes as the government responds to Professor Sir Charles Bean’s Independent Review of UK Economic Statistics (IRES).

IRES outlined a series of recommendations to enable ONS to develop world-leading analytical and digital capabilities in economic measurement and ‘future proof’ the production of the UK’s economic statistics.

Some of the points outlined by IRES outlined that the ONS must:

  • push the boundaries and further develop its statistics
  • enforce a customer orientated culture
  • make full use of administrative data already held by government
  • strengthen statistical governance in line with Professor Sir Charles Bean’s strategic recommendations

The government also welcomed the creation of an Independent Regulation and Evaluation Office to support better governance of ONS statistics. This new body will be charged with publicly assessing both the trustworthiness and quality of official statistics, as well as ONS’s effectiveness.

Speaking during a visit to the ONS on Thursday March 17, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock said:

Data is the fuel on which we can make the best and strongest decisions for the public. The very best policies and services are developed around information that’s current, relevant and accessible.

Official statistics shine a light on how our economy is performing, but by doing so inform policy decisions of government and businesses which affect the lives of millions of people across the UK.

My announcement today firmly underlines our commitment for the ONS to stay in Newport. These ambitious plans will help the ONS rise to the challenge of an increasingly technological economy and make sure the UK is a global leader.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said:

Ensuring UK economic statistics are at the cutting edge is an important issue that not only informs the decisions I make as Chancellor, but one that affects businesses and households across the country.

That’s why last year Matt Hancock and I asked Professor Bean to consider how we can best achieve world-class statistics here in the UK. Now thanks to his authoritative analysis we’re in a better position to tackle the global challenge of measuring a modern economy and I’m pleased that new funding announced at Budget will help ensure UK statistics are fit for the future.

Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns said:

This announcement is a vote of confidence in Newport and Welsh expertise.

Wales is developing an international reputation as a centre for innovation in technology, and the new data science hub will be a fantastic enhancement to that. The UK government and Wales Office is determined to play its part in building on that excellence.

Published 17 March 2016