Announcing the Public Body Register
We are creating a new register for Public Bodies, in partnership with the Government Digital Service (GDS). This new register is a prototype version of the final register, and we are now seeking feedback.
But first, what is the register, and why have we made it?
National Accounts and economic statistics classifications
The national accounts are a statistical framework for describing what is happening in national economies. All institutional units operating within an economy are classified to an institutional sector (for example as non-financial corporations, general government units or households). All transactions between the sectors of the economy are also categorised as part of the national accounts framework. Correctly classifying units and the transactions they engage in is therefore an integral and important part of the production of national accounts.
Classifications can take on political significance, because national accounts statistics are widely used in measuring economic performance. They are also the basis for distributing large sums of money (for example, EU Budget contributions).
The classifications of institutional units and transactions between them also inform other statistics produced by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). These include labour market statistics, trade statistics, and the public sector finances and government deficit and debt statistics produced under European Union legislation.
In the UK, the government has also decided to base its fiscal policy framework on the national accounts. It follows from this that national accounts classification decisions not only impact economic statistics produced by ONS but have a much wider impact on government budgeting, fiscal targets and the accounting regime for classified units.
Therefore, it is important that organisations are correctly classified so the ONS can produce robust statistics on the size and composition of the public sector. Accurate classifications are also important for the international comparability of statistics on public sector size and spending.
It is worth noting that an organisation’s classification status is a purely statistical matter that does not have any immediate implications for an organisation’s legal status, ownership or management structure. The only change is to how an organisation is accounted for in official statistics.
The Public Sector Classification Guide
Once the ONS has classified an institutional unit, the outcome is published in the monthly Public Sector Classification Guide (PSCG). All current and former public sector bodies that the ONS has classified previously are included in the Guide, as well as new classifications for that month.
Why do we need another register?
In collaboration with the GOV.UK Registers team at the (GDS), we have developed a new register, called the Public Body register, based on the PSCG. This register is a list of current and former public bodies that have been classified as part of the national accounts framework.
While the PSCG already lists all current and former public sector bodies, the strength of the Public Body Register lies in its interconnectedness with other GDS registers, allowing a more comprehensive view of listed bodies. It is part of the growing network of registers that are easy to link together, and share a common platform and API. That means it is easy to find out more information about the public bodies in the register, by looking up the same organisations in other registers.
This is already possible for some public bodies that are listed in the government-organisation register, many of which will also be in the upcoming government-domain register. You can also start from those registers and link back to find an organisation’s classification.
As more registers of government entities are built, it will become easier to explore and understand the machinery of government. 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 ‘name’ and ‘organisation’ fields mean
Some records have a blank ‘name’ field. That is because, when an organisation already exists in another register, so does the name, and that version of the name is the most authoritative one. In such cases, we link to that other register via the ‘organisation’ field, and leave the ‘name’ field in this register blank.
What the ‘public-body-classifications’ field means
This field tells you the classification of a particular public body. Currently it is a code from the European System of Accounts. If that doesn’t mean much to you, then you can find the descriptions of each code in another new register – the ‘public-body-classification’ register.
What the ‘start-date’ and ‘end-date’ fields mean
The start date is the date that a classification applies from (rather than the date ONS made the classification). Similarly, the end date is the date that a classification no longer applies. Usually, the end date coincides with a public body either ceasing to be public, or closing down.
How you can help us
These new registers are 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 useful and widely used as possible. So if you have any comments or views please email the Registers Team, Government Digital Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.