'We need a true population count or Camden will lose money'

Editors Note: Image has been flipped digitally so that the writing in the reflection appears the cor

The Census was taken on March 21, 2021 during lockdown - Credit: PA

I am writing today about the latest census, not the first issue on people’s political agenda, but one with huge implications for communities in Camden.  

When the decision to carry out the census during a global pandemic was taken, I, alongside leaders from across London, raised concerns about us being left with an inaccurate picture.  

The results confirm our fears have been realised. They show Camden’s population supposedly dropped by 4.7% – over 10,000 since 2011. 

This matters because this is how funding is decided for our communities and readers will know we have already seen over half of Camden Council’s budget slashed.  

Counting a diverse and always changing community like Camden is hard in the best of times but the lockdown made this so much worse. We believe this has led to the national census missing thousands of residents, meaning our communities will miss out on vital resources.  

We must look back to the unique moment in time when the Census data was taken,  March 21, 2021. We had endured a traumatic winter battling Covid-19, and while jabs were starting to be rolled out, we were still in stage one of the government’s roadmap. The national instruction was to stay at home. 

Cllr Georgia Gould. Picture: Camden Council

Cllr Georgia Gould was concerned that the Census was to be taken during lockdown - Credit: Camden Council

One of the sections of Camden most impacted by lockdown was our normally thriving student community. Students swapped lecture halls for learning online. Many did so from their parents’ homes outside of London, saving money on expensive inner-city rent. Meanwhile the annual influx of international students was halted, as many remained in their home countries, often under their own lockdown restrictions.  

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Older residents, whether they be young professionals or people with a second home or family outside of London, also took the opportunity to temporarily move out of Camden. But we know they have returned.  

To take the Census at this distinctly abnormal moment, has produced a distinctly abnormal result. 

Yes, we know our population is changing, with fewer children in the borough due to affordability of housing. But all the evidence we have points towards an expected population increase. Office for National Statistics estimates forecast an overall population increase of up to 68,000 and this is backed up with increases in GP sign ups.  

Why does getting this right matter? Historically, government funding allocations to local councils and healthcare services have been directly linked to population data.

As we deal with the consequences of a global pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis hitting our communities, we now risk an unfair further cut to our funding – on top of the huge government cuts we have endured since 2010. Millions of pounds we would spend on residents to provide welfare, housing and health support is now at stake. 

We cannot let this happen. We are working closely with Westminster to highlight this unfair situation and to ask the Office for National Statistics to carry out a boost sample survey to set the record straight.  

Across the capital, we believe there are 100,000 "lost Londoners" who were not recorded in the Census. We will fight to ensure they are statistically recognised, and that this translates into a revised government funding formula, so our residents get the support they both deserve and need.  

Cllr Georgia Gould (Lab, Kentish Town South) is leader of Camden Council.