Demilitarise the census

IssueApril - May 2021
Feature by PN staff

The contract for processing UK census forms has been put in the hands of Leidos, one of the world’s biggest military companies. We invite you to take action through the census form itself, to suggest to others that they do the same – and, crucially, (a) tell your local paper about what you’re doing and (b) tell us what you’re doing!

In 2011, the contract for processing the census in the UK was awarded to the US arms company Lockheed Martin, leading to quite a lot of protest, including by the ‘Count Me Out’ network.

The part of Lockheed Martin that carried out this work, its ‘information systems and global solutions’ section, was sold off to Leidos in 2016, and no doubt helped Leidos win the £65m contract for ‘census questionnaire management’ in the UK.

So, it is pretty much the same people/organisation doing the census work in 2021 as did it in 2011. It’s just that they are now housed in a company specialising in government IT work, including a ton of military and intelligence IT work.

What is Leidos?

Leidos was listed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as the 19th biggest arms and military services company in the world in 2019, with military sales of $5.3bn out of total sales of $11.1bn. The British military paid Leidos £276m just in 2016 – 2017, including for supporting the MoD’s ‘defence supply chain’.

Leidos mainly does military IT and support services, though it did buy a military hardware company, Dynetics, for $1.65bn in 2020.

Dynetics is a developer of ‘future defence technologies’ for the US military, including long-range hypersonic missiles, ground-based laser weapons, and the Gunsmoke battlefield intelligence microsatellite.

In 2019, Leidos won a contract with the US army to provide ‘aircraft intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support services’.

Overall, Leidos says its military work includes ‘command and control’ and ‘intelligence analysis and operations support’.

The census

As in 2011, Peace News doesn’t want to undermine the accuracy of the census, which is important for putting hospitals, schools and other government services in the right places across the UK.

We believe that there is a maximum to the amount Leidos will be paid by the government, however much the census actually costs. So, if lots of people increase the cost of processing their forms, that will reduce the profit Leidos makes from this operation.

If you don’t complete the census (apart from the religion and sexual orientation questions) or if you provide false information, you can get a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.

If you are okay with filling out the census, but want to minimise Leidos’s profits , we have some suggestions below – a more detailed guide from 2011 is available on the PN website.

The most important thing is to raise the political profile of this issue by getting it into your local paper and/or radio station. Here is a draft press release (see box) you can adapt to send out to your local media – it’s on the PN website if you want to copy and paste it.

Our guide

You may want to try one or more of these suggestions to reduce Leidos’s profits.

We should stress that creating publicity about your protest will have a much bigger impact on Leidos than any of the steps suggested below.

1) A paper copy

This is the most important step. If you fill in the census online, that reduces costs massively, and increases Leidos’s profit. So, you should ask for a paper form.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you can phone them up on 0800 328 2021. If you do have access to the internet, you can request the paper version from the census website:

2) Upside down

If you write in the boxes upside down, it’s unlikely that the computer will be able to process your form, and a human will have to read those pages.

3) Think outside the box

Alternatively, write some or all of your answers outside the boxes they are meant to go into.

4) Staple it

If you give the wrong answer to a question, cross it out, then write the right answer on a bit of paper and staple it to the census form. Stapling means that page can’t be put through the computer scanner.

5) That’s torn it

With one or more of the pages, you might tear the page in half and then repair it with sellotape. This probably also means it can’t be put through the scanner.

6) Solid black

This is a bit time-consuming. Every page of the form has a unique barcode so that the form can be taken to pieces and the separate pages fed into a scanner.

If you fill in all the white space of a barcode, that page will have to be processed by a human. Don’t leave little bits of line sticking out at the top or bottom!

7) Use your own

Copy the Freepost address onto an envelope without a transparent window when you send back the form. This means a human has to open the envelope to start the processing.

Draft census action press release 

Please adapt this to suit your needs, send it to the newsdesk at your local paper/radio station and follow it up with a phone call. All their contact details should be on their websites. Please let us know if there is any coverage by phoning us on 020 7278 3344 or via l This draft press release is available on the PN website.

‘Bloggstown resident fills in census upside down in arms protest’

Jane Bloggs, 29, of Bloggs Road, is joining peace activists around the country in a creative protest against the involvement of a major arms company in the 2021 census.

Jane Bloggs said: ‘I don’t agree with our census questionnaires being processed by a multi-billion-dollar US arms company which is developing ground-based laser weapons and long-range hypersonic missiles for the US army.’ [see Notes below]

Jane Bloggs says she is going to obey the law by filling in her census form, but she is going to make it as costly as possible for Leidos to process. She has ordered a paper census form, and is filling in her answers upside down in order to make it difficult to process by computer.

‘There are lots of interesting ways to make it more costly for Leidos to process our information,’ said Jane, ‘including stapling the correct answers to the form instead of writing them in the boxes provided.’

Milan Rai, editor of Peace News, which is circulating a guide to creative resistance to the census, commented: ‘Lots of British people are likely to feel uncomfortable adding to the profits of a giant US arms company developing weapons of death and providing IT services to those who’ve been waging war in Afghanistan and around the world for decades.’



> Leidos was listed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as the 19th biggest arms and military services company in the world in 2019, with military sales of $5.3bn out of total sales of $11.1bn.

> Leidos won the £65m contract for ‘Census Questionnaire Management’ in 2018.

> A wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, Dynetics, is building a 300kW directed energy weapon and developing missile bodies for long-range hypersonic missiles, both for the US army. and

> Based in London, the British peace movement newspaper Peace News was founded in 1936. The PN guide to creative census resistance can be found on the Peace News website:

Topics: Census