UK Geography is key to virtually all National Statistics. It provides the framework for collecting, processing, analysing and presenting data. Geography is often the only factor different datasets have in common.
There are many different types of geography on which statistics are published: administrative, health, electoral, postal. Their boundaries frequently don’t align and change regularly, making it extremely challenging to produce and compare meaningful statistics over time. A big challenge has been for those who produce statistics to locate every statistical event – a birth or death, reported crime, number of businesses or whatever – accurately and consistently, using a single set of codes and names for each type of geography that define where and when the event took place. These codes and names are now established and used for all statistics published by the Government Statistical Service (GSS).
So where do registers come in? Put simply registers are authoritative lists of information. So rather than different organisations all maintaining their own information, creating a register will mean there is one list, that everyone uses, that is trusted to contain the most up to date and accurate information. Registers are reliable lists of information managed by one custodian from the government organisation responsible for maintaining the register’s data.
So the list of GSS codes and names for statistical geographies mentioned above is the Statistical Geography register, maintained by ONS.
What is a geography?
In this context, a geography is a way of dividing up the UK into regions, areas or districts. These geographies already exist, to support different government or administrative functions e.g. local authorities, health areas or Westminster parliamentary constituencies. The GSS publishes statistics for all these geographies.
The Register of Geographic Codes
The Register of Geographic Codes (RGC) is a comprehensive listing of statistical areas covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is widely used to create and publish UK statistics. It is currently available to download from the Open Geography portal.
The RGC is a key product that contains the definitive list of UK statistical geographies. We maintain the geographies, coordinate the issue of new codes for each geography, and update the relationship between active and archived code ranges on behalf of the Government Statistical Service.
Announcing the Statistical Geography Register
In collaboration with the GOV.UK Registers team Register Design Authority, Government Digital Service, we have developed a new register called the Statistical Geography Register, based on the Register of Geographic Codes. This register is a list of those different ways of dividing up the UK. In time, the Statistical Geography Register will provide links to the entire code range for each entity or division including local authority districts among others, (eg. electoral wards, health areas etc).
We’ve already created our first link for the Unitary Authorities (UA) of Wales. The Welsh Government already maintains a register of local authorities in Wales, called the Principal Local Authority Register, and we’ve created a new register called statistical-geography-unitary-authority-wls that will link that register with the geography of unitary authorities (UA). Each Welsh UA code provides a link to further registers giving the name and more information.
Statistical-geography-unitary-authority-wls is the first of many other registers that will use the same system of codes. Over time we’re creating over 100 registers potentially, for each of those divisions or entities, but for now the first entity is Welsh UAs.
Together, these registers will form part of the ‘national data infrastructure of registers’ that the government is committed to building in the Government Transformation Strategy.
What the codes mean
In every register there is one field that uniquely identifies each record. In this register, that field is called ‘statistical-geography’, and it uses the same codes that the ONS already uses and maintains in the Open Geography portal, such as Welsh UAs, which has the code ‘W06’.
What the ‘organisation’ field means
This is the ‘owner’ of the geography on the register. Where available, the link takes you to an existing register of government bodies, and more links will become available over time, as more and more government bodies appear in registers.
What the ‘area’ field means
The area field is a link to the geographic area that an entity relates to. For example The Primary Healthcare Directorate only operates on the Isle of Man.
What the ‘Register’ field means
The register field is a link to the register containing those items, where it exists, e.g. there is a link on entry W06 unitary authorities to the unitary authorities register.
How you can help us
These new registers are alpha (prototype) versions of the final registers, so we are now seeking feedback. Your comments are important to us as we will use them to make the final registers as good as possible, to be used most widely. So if you have any comments or views please complete this form, or email the Register Design Authority, Government Digital Service at firstname.lastname@example.org