Make sure you fill in the census form

Codnor man in charge of the east midlands census. Mike Whittall
Codnor man in charge of the east midlands census. Mike Whittall

By now many of us probably have opened the curious purple and white census form and started to fill it in.

And the message from the man in charge of the operation here in Amber Valley is don’t delay completing it.



According to Mike Whittall, from Codnor, taking the time to fill in the 2011 Census is the most important thing a household can do this year.

He says so with good reason as the 51-year-old has the daunting task of managing the Census operation in the East Midlands.

In charge of a team of workers from the Office for National Statistics, his job is to make sure every household and temporary accommodation in the area receives their form, fills it in and returns it in the correct way.

And the former Sheriff of Nottingham is keen to stress how vital the once-a-decade event is.

He said: “The importance of the census is not just because it is interesting academically.

“It is important because we need to know where the population is in order to the appropriate investment in schools, roads and health services.

“All sorts of organisations use the census data.”

Mr Whittall explained that the nationwide survey is an effective tool for studying the population.

He said: “Say there are more people over the age of 85 living in a certain area. This is important for planning for adult care.

“A housing association may look at statistics and decide that a particular part of the area needs housing adapted for older people.”

West Midlands born Mr Whittall, who moved to Codnor in 2000, said the Census once helped him convince the Legal Services Commission that its website should include sign language videos for the deaf.

The move came after the Census data from 2001 revealed that over 50,000 people used British sign language as their first language.

Mr Whittall was working for Legal Aid at the time.

Sunday, March 27, was national census day, meaning you could start handing your Census forms in, either by filling in a paper copy and returning it in the freepost envelope provided, or by heading to and filling in an online form.

Legally you have six months to complete the form, but delay longer at your peril – as fines can be up to £1,000 for handing it in late or refusing to do it.

Mr Whittall said a common cause for not filling in the form was anxiety.

People are often concerned that the Census is not confidential and organisations will have access to personal details.

However the Codnor man says the confidentiality of the survey lasts 100 years. Only after a century are the names in a household reunited with the statistics about that address.

This way it is possible for ancestry tracers to peer into the lives of their forebears.

It means the most recent Census available to view with the details of now is from 1911. And the forms we fill in this year could be studied by our curious ancestors in the year 2111.

Excuses for not filling it in will not be accepted, he said.

Saying ‘my dog ate it’ will not rub with the office of National Statistics as replacement forms can be obtained via the website, or the helpline on, 0300 0201 101

More than 360,000 people in England and Wales have taken advantage of the help available online and over the phone to help them fill in their form.

No matter how difficult the form might appear, Mr Whittall has urged honesty when putting household details in – you never know who will be seeing the records in 100 years time.