Those boycotting the census and joining the ‘Count Me Out’ campaign are missing the point – the census is a vital planning tool for government and councils, and I think it should go even further and ask us more.
I think the census is a great idea: it allows councils and government to target their resources on actual, rather than perceived, needs. And it gives us a clearer idea of who we are as a nation, celebrating and acknowledging the differences between us.
Plus, whether you call it social anthropology or simple curiosity, I want to know where I fit in with my fellow islanders – unlike Sarah Kidner who is more concerned about privacy issues than these benefits.
Understanding the bigger picture
For a start, the census is a vital planning tool for both central government and local councils – further budget cuts are coming and I want to know that my local council is targeting its spending exactly where it’s needed.
So if a family of five is sharing a two-bedroom house, the government needs to know about it, and needs to alter its social housing programme to reflect reality.
Even the sillier looking questions have a serious intent. For example, the question about how well you speak English is, at first sight, the census equivalent of ‘Do you understand this question?’.
But the sentiment behind it is a sensible one – if there is a significant proportion of the population unable to speak English, this situation needs to be remedied through targeted help. Conversely, if there isn’t a need for multilingual services in a particular area, councils shouldn’t be wasting money on them.
A voice for those without a faith
And yet, my biggest reason for supporting the census is that I can register my lack of religious faith. Personally I find it obscene that in 2011 members of religious organisations should still have an unelected vote in the House of Lords.
If we are ever going to separate state and religion, those of us without a faith need to make sure we’re both heard and acknowledged. The census offers us a voice.
All too often we hear about the religious ‘silent majority’. This fundamentally misses the point – as far as the state goes, religious groups of all persuasions should be silent. The secular French have the right idea.
Census should go further
The census isn’t all about big brother spying on every aspect of our lives – it’s also about making sure we get the government services and the representation we need and deserve. It may not be perfect, but the census offers one of the best ways to influence social and economic policy outside of the polling booth.
So I say, go further. Ask me more. Build a bigger picture. Ask me about my sexuality for a start. Things won’t change until our cocooned politicians and civil servants realise the true picture of Britain in 2011. Let’s celebrate our diversity by first gathering evidence of it.
Do you share this appreciation for the census, or are you still unconvinced? Sarah Kidner explains why she doesn’t want to be forced to fill it out here.
Are you for or against the 2011 census?
For (60%, 391 Votes)
Against (40%, 257 Votes)
Total Voters: 648