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Why I don’t consent to the census

Filling out the census

The government says it will impose fines of up to £1,000 for those who don’t fill in its compulsory census – a heavy-handed approach that makes me want to rail against it like a rebellious teenager.

Sure it may be useful for the government to know a bit more about its citizens, but should it have the right to force us to fill it in and threaten us with a £1,000 fine?

My colleague Martyn Saville argues that it does, but these tactics make me (not known as a conspiracy theorist) question its motives.

Census guilty of information overload

The very first census (dating back to 1801) showed little information other than the number of people in the UK and the occupation of the main householder.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the government needs to know almost everything about me: name; sex; occupation; relationship status; the state of my health; my educational qualifications; who I work for; what I do and how I get there… the list goes on.


According to the census website the information it collects is ‘used to help plan and fund services for your community – services like transport, education and health’. This information will be protected and private for ‘100 years’.

What happens to our data?

I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, how will telling the government if I have an ‘overnight guest’ on the day I fill in the census really help fund services? Do they really need all the information they collect?

Currently, there’s a debate raging around data minimisation and online companies such as Google, who some argue are collecting too much data. Shouldn’t the same questions be asked of HM Gov?

I’m also sceptical about how private my information will be. The government’s track record in looking after personal data isn’t great, not to mention the fact that the UK is well known as the ‘leaky bucket of Europe’.

The EU Commissioner is currently proposing, again with relation to being online, that we should have the ‘right to be forgotten’ – i.e. to regain control of our data. Should governments be exempt from this?

Jedi mind tricks

At the last census a reported 390,000 people declared their religion as Jedi and 7,000 people said they were witches.

Is this just high jinks or am I not the only one who has serious concerns about how their data will be used? With a ‘Count Me Out’ campaign gaining momentum and whispers of growing numbers of people planning to boycott the form, it seems likely I’m not alone here.

Perhaps, some people think £1,000 is a risk worth taking when it’s their privacy at stake.

Do you share these concerns or are you happy to fill the census out? Read why Martyn Saville loves the census and thinks it should go even further.

Are you for or against the 2011 census?

For (60%, 391 Votes)

Against (40%, 257 Votes)

Total Voters: 648

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Generally for a census, but not the fine.

Did you know though that not changing your address on your driving license also carries a fine of £1000?

There are quite a few around like this and so I would just brush it under the carpet, unless you are planning to stay a few years in your current place

The data the census collects is generally info that all your insurance, mortgage, rentals, employers etc already have. Just because the government wants this info doesn’t mean that it’s any less / more safe.

They’ll use it as a big stick to beat us with though, thats for sure 🙂

Zoe says:
24 March 2011

I’m neither for or against it to be honest. The questions seem so banal. I remember the last census form I filled in asking for my income level, which this doesn’t, and no doubt there are others that aren’t being asked for one reason or another. I can’t see much in the way of ‘forward planning’ coming out of the responses – and as Sarah says, of what possible relevance is the knowledge that you have or don’t have an overnight guest?
As for the £1000 fine, yes, it’s ludicrous, government waving its big stick, just because it can… or maybe it’s another way of reducing the current deficit!

Steve says:
30 March 2011

As for overnight visitors, they have been included in all censuses (and marked as such since 1851) otherwise there would not be anything approaching a full headcount, because if you are visiting somebody else’s home on that night then you should not be on your home’s return.

As for the fine, if it wasn’t there then people just wouldn’t do it, same as they don’t bother to vote.



So census information is ‘used to help plan and fund services for your community – services like transport, education and health’.

Does this mean the current chaos is planned?

Jasmine66 says:
24 March 2011

Think its just to keep few people off the jobless figures while they collate the info.
How can they plan services when our borders are so weak and they don’t have a clue how many illegals are in the country….money would be better spent chasing them.
Surely all the honest are all on electoral register anyhow so no need for this.

Conrad says:
31 March 2011

I’m afraid Jasmine that only over 18’s would be on the electoral role!


Your full name’s already in the system, As is Your age & sex.

I reckon You tell FaceBook.Com more about Your life & sex life, Than You’ll be asked in this census :/

We need to record wheather physically sick or mentally sick, disabled, or both, etc, This helps see how many people may relie on The NHS or those who can afford or want to go private.

More people may have gone to The Denist when it was under NHS, Where less go now because its privately funded & Less NHS Denist’s around.

We all hate being forced or made or even asked/told to do something we fill isn’t needed, But The Census & Voting In Elections Is an Right & We should never be allowed to back out of that right.

Google, Sainsburys, Tesco, & Loads more only want our information for selling us some stuff we might not want or need,

Were collecting information about the Uk people & What we do & don’t do every 10 years or so, Is for help improving public & private services, NHS, Police, Social Services, Traveling, Trains, & More.

Some people aren’t religous & Some believe if enough people believe or joke about an religion, It has to be accepted as an religion & Some want Jedi to become an recgnozied relegion for what ever reason, But most people don’t take religion seriously or as an serious question in The Census,

Were I hope those being asked about health, housing, schooling, wages, human rights, & So on answer honstely & fairly.

Your only asked every 10 years or so, Stop moaning, Were Compaines ask You nearl every day,week, month, year, questions & personal questions.

[Message from mods: I’ve fixed those starred out words for you Scott. Thanks.]


If some people think its worth an £1000.00p fine or prison, All just because of some questions & personal questions every 10 years,

Then You’ve either got to much money on Your hands Or You think the whole worlds spying on You, In either case You may need help mentally & An life.

If someone wanted to spy on You & gather all the information together & Use the information about You in an good way or bad way or both,

They certainly wouldn’t use an census every 10 years, They’d use many different platform/s, including spying & Even then not spying.

This is The Uk peoples Right & Chance to express themselves & answer the questions honestly to help The Uk change & get better services & What The Uk people are worried about,

Without us all being worried about being spyed on, Its about helping as many people as possible & Not focusing on person or family, All our views count & Need recording, Or otherwise were never know if our thoughts,views,opinions,worries,concerns, were dealt with or ignored over the 10 years, Or if things got better,worse, or stayed the same.

We need to record progress as The Uk people & Not as one person or family, Or small group.

UK biggest sceptic? says:
24 March 2011

Hmmm well they can try and fine me, i’ve already taken offence at the questions, ripped it in half and chucked it in the fire… I have MS with brain damage, anxiety, depression etc and my hubby is dyslexic, what they gonna do, take us to court for being disabled? Its the biggest load of balls i’ve heard since the government decided to say “oh we’re going to take a penny off fuel, you should be grateful even though the vat rise added 3p in the first place”.
What difference would it make if i went through the hassle of filling it out, what difference does it make what my childrens names are for example. We need to record our views my a*se. Just seems like a pointless bunch of questions that they are trying to