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Origami Bus Used to Launch Lancaster Census Rehearsal. No, really...

John Freeman

Above: Robert Redfern, Deputy Mayor of Lancaster with Jonathan Ayre, 2011 Census Lancaster Area Manager; Ian Cope, Deputy Director 2011 Census Operations; Glen Watson, 2011 Census Director and children from Cathedral Primary School, Lancaster and Great Wood Primary School, Morecambe, at the launch of the 2009 Census Rehearsal. Oh, and an origami bus...

To mark the launch of the 2009 Census Rehearsal in Lancaster today, a giant origami bus has been unveiled in the Ashton Memorial. No, we don't quite understand the symbolism either - and we shudder to think what, in an age where we're supposed to be saving public money, what it cost.

Apparently, though, this origami model is designed to represent how the community of Lancaster will help shape the 2011 Census which in turn will help shape the future of the local area.

The model was unveiled by Councillor Robert Redfern, the Deputy Mayor; Glen Watson, the Office for National Statistics Census Director and local school children from Lancaster and Morecambe.

The census, carried out every ten years by the ONS, is an estimate of the population of England and Wales, and its results are used to make sure local communities are correctly represented and receive appropriate funds and services such as transport and housing. The next census is planned for March 2011 and Lancaster has been selected to take part in the 2009 Census Rehearsal, essentially a test run of the 2011 Census.

From today 65,000 households in the local area will receive the rehearsal questionnaire of 56 questions and will be asked to fill it in on Census Rehearsal Day on Sunday 11th October 2009, just over three weeks away. By taking part, say the organisers, the residents of Lancaster will play an important role in helping ONS make sure that everything will run smoothly in the 2011 Census, including testing the new online questionnaire.

“The census plays an important role in future planning for Lancaster City Council," argues Deputy Mayor Redfern, "as the results are used by central government to help allocate the amount of money we have to spend on services such as transport, housing, health and schools.

It's vital then that every single person is counted, and so important that as a city we help shape the census through taking part in the rehearsal.”

To help manage the rehearsal, Jonathan Ayre has been appointed census area manager for Lancaster. He will be tasked with managing a team of 74 census co-ordinators, collectors and special enumerators, who will be recruited in the local area, who will work closely with the local authority and community groups to conduct the Rehearsal. (The ONS has been already begun recruiting people for this test over the past few weeks through advertisements in the local newspapers and elsewhere).

Commenting at the rehearsal launch today Glen Watson, ONS Census Director said: “The rehearsal is our chance to road test all of the work we have done to make sure we get a high quality snapshot of the population of England and Wales when we come to the 2011 Census itself. Returning the 2009 Census Rehearsal questionnaire is really straightforward - and it can be done securely online too, using a unique code. So our message to people is, help us to help you by making the rehearsal a real success, in turn this will enable us to ensure we make the best possible population estimate in 2011."

Which all sounds very worthy, but it still doesn't really explain that origami bus...

• For more information on the 2009 Census Rehearsal or to request a copy of the census questions in braille or alternative languages, please visit or telephone 0300 0200 901. British Sign Language video clips and audio recordings are also available on the site.

Facts about the 2009 Census Rehearsal:

• The rehearsal is taking place in three areas - Lancaster, the London Borough of Newham and Ynys Môn – Isle of Anglesey

• In total, around 140,000 households in these areas will be asked to take part on Census Rehearsal Day, 11 October 2009

• These areas represent a cross-section of the population and include a broad range of housing types

• In parallel to the rehearsal a small scale test in Birmingham will be undertaken

• The small scale test in Birmingham will include 17,000 addresses and will utilise some of the procedures and processes being delivered within the rehearsal

• Everyone is asked the same questions on the same day in order to take a snapshot of the population at one moment

• The census is easy to fill in, confidential and can be filled in online for the first time

• The results from the rehearsal will not be published but used to improve procedures for 2011. There are 56 questions in total, 14 are about the household and its accommodation and 42 questions are for each individual member of the household to complete

• Most questions can be answered by a simple tick

• Taking part in the 2009 Census Rehearsal and test in Birmingham is voluntary. Everyone will be obliged to take part in the 2011 Census