Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said the Census, which takes place every 10 years, was an expensive and inaccurate way of measuring the number of people in Britain.As far as I'm aware Westminster only has authority to organise the census in England and Wales, but if it is cancelled there I can't imagine it surviving much longer after that in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Instead, the Government is examining different and cheaper ways to count the population more regularly, using existing public and private databases, including credit reference agencies.
Calculating the total population, in the modern IT age, is a relatively simple exercise and doesn't require the total population signing a piece of paper to confirm they exist. Ascertaining the breakdown of socio-economic factors is more tricky and that kind of data could prove useful in terms of directing public services towards the areas of greater need. However, there are more exact ways that can measured (eg number of unemployed signing on, number of school kids qualifying for free meals).
But the most controversial aspect of the census, ie the calculating of the ethnic/religious/national identity breakdown of the population, why is that necessary in the first place, what function (other than rousing the ire of Daily Mail readers and the excitement of the ethno-nat number crunchers) does it perform?
Would we really be that worse off as a society if we didn't possess that exact information?