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ONS dropping costly monthly surveys will help SMEs

The Office for National Statistics has announced that it will change the way it comes up with its economic growth estimates.

The move is likely to cut costs for small businesses, as they are likely to have far fewer time-consuming surveys to complete.


The data the ONS collects about the UK economy is an important resource for both government and business. The new changes are aimed at producing statistics that rely less on how companies say they are doing and focus more on the taxes that are being collected from them.

The ONS announced that it would be using HMRC data more heavily in the future, and hoped to phase out 50% of the monthly surveys businesses are sent within five years.


Estimates suggest that taxpayers could be saved £720,000 a year by the ONS shifting to the use of electronic data collection in addition to HMRC data. Not only that, costs to the private sector would also fall by half, with the organisation claiming that the "most significant savings would be for small and medium-sized businesses".

More than 45,000 surveys are used to collate data on companies every month. The results represent figures covering around 55% of the total UK economy.

The current system would be replaced by using data from VAT receipts about turnover figures from around 1.75m companies who are required to file returns every month.

The ONS said that businesses selected for the new electronic data collection programme could find themselves completing returns online in spring 2017 at the earliest.

"These plans are part of a wider ONS agenda to develop new and better sources of data and keep producing the highest quality statistics possible," Nick Vaughan, director of national accounts and economic statistics at the ONS, explained.

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