Visualising local Census 2021 data


Author: Jessica Bailey, deputy head of outreach and engagement, Office for National Statistics

Everyone benefits from the census. The data provided helps councils, charities and businesses plan and fund the local and national services we all rely on, wherever we live, across England and Wales. 

In June 2022, just over a year after census day, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first results from Census 2021. Since then, we have been steadily producing a wealth of census data, allowing users to access and make use of it quicker than ever before. We predict we’ll ultimately publish around 5 billion statistics from Census 2021.

We have published datasets and detailed analysis on a wide range of topics including demography and migration, nationality, ethnic group, language and religion, and much more. For the first time ever, we have also given users the ability to create and customise their own datasets, allowing them to fully explore the relationships between topics that matter to them through our ‘create a custom dataset’ tool

We are aware that when it comes to census statistics, different users have different needs. We recognise that for yourselves in parish and town councils, while the information published so far may be of general interest, to make best use of census data you require it to be available at geographies that we have yet to publish. As part of phase 3 of our census release plans we will be publishing parish-level data, as well as detailed migration data, data on small populations, alternative population bases and more. We will be providing updates on this work in the coming weeks. 

We also understand that for many users, the raw data can be challenging to make sense of and using it to answer the questions you have can be complicated and time consuming. 

Luckily, the days when census statistics were only published in huge, printed volumes are long gone. The ONS is committed to making all of our data, including census statistics, as accessible as possible. To support with this, we are creating a range of products and tools to help users understand and visualise census data.

These tools are different to the raw data, and they do not necessarily provide as much detail and granularity that can be found by analysing the data itself. What they do is allow users to interact with and visualise census statistics in different ways and to see the story behind what the data shows for your local area. 

One of these tools is our custom area profile builder. This allows users to select from pre-existing geographies such as parishes or wards, or to draw their own custom areas on map, and to view a range of census data about that area. We have published a blog on how to use the tool here

Alongside this, our interactive census maps let you explore Census 2021 data down to a local neighbourhood level. The tool allows you to easily see differences between neighbourhoods, and to see how a particular area has changed between Census 2011 and Census 2021. Again, we have published a blog on how to use the tool here.

Alongside the various datasets, these tools are just one aspect of our Census 2021 outputs. We have also produced a range of interactive articles such as ‘How your area has changed in 10 years’, analysis on key census topics as well as blogs and podcasts which provide further context and commentary on ONS data, including Census 2021.  

While the census programme is far from over, with lots more information still to be brought to life, we are already looking ahead to how we might produce population statistics in the future. We recognise that producing high-quality, timely population and migration statistics is essential to ensure people get the services and support they need, both within their communities and nationwide. On 29 June the ONS launched a public consultation on our proposals for a new approach to population and migration statistics. This blog explains more about what the consultation is and why it matters. You can access the consultation here

If you’d like to find out more about any of the above, get in contact via

The following blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional or legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Association of Local Councils. Any links to external sources included in this blog post are provided for convenience and do not constitute endorsement or approval of those websites' content, products, services, or policies. Therefore, readers should use discretion and judgment when applying the information to their circumstances. Finally, this blog post may be updated or revised without notice.

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