Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who resides in the city centre parish?

There was a phone message on our home answering machine from a worker at the Representative Body asking for population statistics on the Parish, omitted from our annual financial returns. The box on the form was left blank simply because of the difficulty of a straightforward answer to the enquiry.

The former Central Cardiff parish boundary cut through two of the three electoral wards of the city of which it was made up. The new parish boundary cuts through the third ward as well. These three have in common a mix of empty properties and multiple occupancies. The 2001 Census made a poor job of getting accurate returns, and the disparities between Census figures and those emanating from Council tax and housing returns are among the highest in the city - 15-20%.

Added to that, a considerable amount of new accommodation has been built in the past couple of years and it's far from clear how many of the new city centre apartments are occupied yet. How many, for instance, of the ten flats in the David Morgan Building bought by a property speculator before completion, are now occupied permanently? Or are they let out on a short or longer term basis? Of the people who have moved in recently, how many have yet to put their names on an electoral register? How many are merely using their shiny new home as a pied-a-terre during their work time in the Capital? I can't even begin to guess how many people are permanently resident in the city's expanding number of hotels.

Given that we're now dealing with fractions of the three wards, and that there's no consistent composition pattern across any residential area, the only certain way of getting an estimate of the actual population would be to conduct one's own door to door census. Doing this would be less than easy, as all the new apartment blocks now have secure entry systems. All in all, patterns of occupation and residence in the heart of the city are vastly different from the suburbs, and this makes the task of relating to 'the Parish' quite different in different contexts. Moreover, the ordinary suburb doesn't see its average population rise by 70,000 a day during the week and sometimes twice that on a weekend.

All of this begs the question of what purpose the statistical enquiry serves, and the further question how well any Parish incument is acquainted with the real population of their area. If one were to add together the reported populations of all the parishes in the city borough, would this tally with Census inhabitant figures, or the Council's figures?

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