About the 2011 Census

What is the Census?

A census is a count of people and households, and is used to set policies and estimate the resources required to provide services for the population.

Every ten years since 1801 the nation has set aside one day for the census - a count of all people and households. It is the most complete source of information about the population that we have. The latest census was held on Sunday 27 March 2011.

Every effort is made to include everyone, which is why the census is so important. It is the only survey which provides a detailed picture of the entire population, and is unique because it covers everyone at the same time and asks the same core questions everywhere. This makes it easy to compare different parts of the country.

The household questionnaire asked about household accommodation, relationship, demographic characteristics (such as sex, age and marital status), migration, cultural characteristics, health and provision of care, qualifications, employment, workplace and journey to work.

In England and Wales, the census is planned and carried out by the Office for National Statistics.

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Why we needed a census in 2011

We all use public services such as schools, health services, roads and libraries. These services need to be planned, and in such a way that they keep pace with fast-changing patterns of modern life. We need accurate information on the numbers of people, where they live and what their needs are.

The census gives us invaluable facts about: Population, Health, Housing, Employment, Transport and Ethnic Group

Every ten years the census provides a benchmark. Uniquely, it gives us a complete picture of the nation. It counts the numbers of people living in each city, town and country area. It tells us about each area and its population, including the balance of young and old, what jobs people do, and the type of housing they live in.

The information the census provides allows central and local government, health authorities and many other organisations to target their resources more effectively and to plan housing, education, health and transport services for years to come.

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The information provided to the 2011 Census is confidential and protected by law.

The confidentiality of personal information is a top priority for the census. Personal census information is not shared with any other government department, local councils or marketing companies.

Information collected in the 2011 Census is used solely to produce statistics and for statistical research. These statistics will not reveal any personal information.

The paper questionnaires are scanned, then shredded, pulped and recycled. Census records are kept confidential for 100 years before being made available to the public. Census records remain closed while they are in the custody of the census offices. Records from the 2011 Census for England and Wales are not scheduled for public release before January 2112.

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Census Areas Geographies

Output Areas (OAs)

Output areas are the base unit for Census data releases.

In England and Wales 2001 Census OAs were based on postcodes as at Census Day and fit within the boundaries of 2003 statistical wards and parishes. If a postcode straddled an electoral ward/division or parish boundary, it was split between two or more OAs.

The minimum OA size was 40 resident households and 100 resident people but the recommended size was rather larger at 125 households. These size thresholds meant that unusually small wards and parishes were incorporated into larger OAs.

Output areas and super output areas align to local authority boundaries. The average population in an OA has increased from 297 in 2001 to 309 in 2011.

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Parishes are subdivisions of local authorities in many parts of England, and their councils are the most local level of government. Unlike electoral wards/divisions however, parishes are not found in all parts of England. Note that the full term for administrative parishes is 'civil parishes', to distinguish them from the ecclesiastical parishes which are found in all parts of the UK.

There are 270 parishes in Dorset

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Towns within Dorset

A town is a settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. Within Dorset 20 settlements are defined as towns:

  • Beaminster - Also includes the parish of Mapperton, as it was combined with Beaminster due to low numbers
  • Blandford Forum
  • Chickerell
  • Dorchester
  • Ferndown
  • Gillingham
  • Lyme Regis
  • Lytchett minster and Upton
  • Portland
  • Shaftesbury
  • Sherborne
  • Stalbridge
  • Sturminster Newton
  • Swanage
  • Verwood
  • Wareham
  • Wimborne Minster
  • Christchurch
  • Bridport
  • Weymouth

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Electoral Ward / Wards

Electoral wards/wards are the base unit of UK administrative geography such that all higher units are built up from them. They are also used as a base unit for many other geographies such as parliamentary constituencies and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). Electoral wards are found across Scotland, Northern Ireland and most of England, whereas the equivalents in Wales, the Isle of Wight and six of the unitary authorities created in 2009 are known as electoral divisions.

There are 159 wards in Dorset.

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Local Authority (LA)

Local authority (LA) is a generic term for any level of local government in the UK. In geographic terms LAs therefore include English counties, non-metropolitan districts, metropolitan districts, unitary authorities and London boroughs; Welsh unitary authorities; Scottish council areas; and Northern Irish district council areas.

There are six Local Authorities in Dorset County Council area:

  • Christchurch
  • East Dorset
  • North Dorset
  • Purbeck
  • West Dorset
  • Weymouth and Portland

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Unitary Auhority (UA)

Unitary authorities (UAs) are areas with a single tier of local government (as opposed to the two-tier county:district structure). In practice the term is only applied to the 22 UAs established across the whole of Wales in 1996, and the 56 UAs established in parts of England between 1995 and 2009. However, London boroughs and metropolitan districts in England, council areas in Scotland and district council areas in Northern Ireland are all also served by single-tier (unitary) administrations.

There are two Unitary Authorities:

  • Bournemouth
  • Poole

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County Council

County Councils are two tier in structure and are the elected administrative body governing an area known as a county. County councils generally deal with "wider area" services such as education and adult services whilst district councils exercise more local powers over areas such as planning, housing and refuse collection.

Within Dorset County Council there are six local authorities:

  • Christchurch
  • East Dorset
  • North Dorset
  • Purbeck
  • West Dorset
  • Weymouth and Portland

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