Camden Council joins the campaign to find Census 2021’s “Lost Londoners”

Camden Council has today joined the campaign to find the estimated 100,000 “Lost Londoners” who are likely to have been omitted from Census 2021 population data.

Census 2021 was taken at an exceptional point in history during the third lockdown (21 March 2021) and there is considerable evidence that people’s usual living arrangements temporarily changed during this period.

Initial results from Census 2021 suggest Camden’s population has dropped by 10,300 (-4.7%) in the last ten years to 210,000. This recorded drop matters as in the past Government grants to councils have been directly based on population data – meaning Camden could lose out through a reduction in Government funding.

With other boroughs having also recorded unexpected population drops, Camden has today joined Westminster City Council and Central London Forward in campaigning to find the “Lost Londoners”.

Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council

We believe these figures are skewed by lockdown – they represent a snapshot in time when people temporarily left our borough. Camden’s normally huge student population were learning remotely around the country. Many residents went to stay with family or even lived in a second home outside the capital. We also think there were huge issues in counting all the residents in the many Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) we have in Camden.

Ensuring our population is recorded correctly is critical as it will determine the amount of government funding we receive. Across London, billions of pounds for frontline services are at stake and our residents will be the ones who suffer. Our residents are currently being hit from all sides by the cost-of-living crisis – we know the demand for welfare, housing and health support has never been greater. With our funding from Government already cut by over half since 2010, we cannot absorb further cuts.

We will work with other affected boroughs to call for a boost sample to prove what we are saying and to ensure we get the funding we need to support our residents.

Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council

Why do the population figures in Census 2021 need treating with caution?

Camden Council is concerned that there has been undercounting of its population and that there are “missing households” for the following reasons:

  • Census 2021 was taken at an exceptional point in history during the third lockdown (21 March 2021), when people’s living arrangements temporarily changed: Many residents were temporarily living outside of the capital at this point. In normal times, Camden has a huge student population of around 26,000 but during lockdown, many students studied remotely from their family home. Meanwhile, the 2011 census estimated a significant number of working age people – around 12,000 - had second homes outside of Camden, and this may have given these residents more readily available options to relocate during Covid restrictions.
  • Data recording of Houses in Multiple occupation is very likely to be an underestimate: Camden has around 4,000 licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), and a further 1,200 properties were either applying for an HMO licence or suspected by the Council of being an HMO. Camden is concerned that it was the stated intention of the Census to accept a single return from these properties, despite the chance that multiple people or households may be living at an address.
  • Longstanding challenges around accurately counting population in London: These include the capital’s high rates of homelessness, language barriers, and digital exclusion.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data estimates that that the net natural change of births and deaths in Camden was +13,803 between mid-2011 to mid-2020. The ONS also estimate an overall Camden population change of +68,800 (+33%) in the same period.

Notes to editors:

  • Natural change (births-deaths) mid-2011 to mid-2020 is positive at +13,803 source: Mid-year Estimates components of change/ONS administrative data.
  • Estimated population change mid-2011 to mid-2020 is positive at +68,800 (+33%) source: ONS Mid-year Estimates components of change.