WHEN you pop your census form in the post, your series of black ticks will be helping the Government decide where to allocate billions of pounds each year.

It will also show the face of modern Britain and the changing lifestyles of Oxfordshire people.

A key change is fewer family households and more people living alone, illustrated by moves over the last decade for large housing projects, such as 1,000 homes planned for West Barton.

The 1801 census recorded an average five people to each Oxfordshire home.

But by 1991, this had almost halved to 2.6, and at the time of the last census, Oxfordshire had the sixth highest number of one person households in the country.

While the county’s population was about 240,000 in 1881, the 2001 count put this at 605,488.

Of these 134,248 lived in Oxford, up from 128,948 in 1991.

One of the key issues set to be examined under tomorrow’s count will be the number of older people as life expectancy rockets.

Health chiefs are planning for a 70 per cent rise in over 85s in Oxford by 2029 with this rising to 150 per cent in the more rural Cherwell, Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire districts.

This will massively swell the 8,831 over 75s counted in 2001, putting pressure on NHS and social services, the health service has warned.

Dr Jonathan McWilliam, director of public health at NHS Oxfordshire, said: “The impact on services will be severe. The current range of services which we provide will simply not be affordable.”

The 2011 unemployment figures are set to be in stark contrast to the 2001 count, which came amid a surge in economic prosperity, which began in the mid-1990s.

The 2001 census counted 2,351 county unemployed, but latest Government figures now put benefit claimants at 7,931, down on 9,000 last year.

A careful eye will be on immigration figures from the 2011 count.

In April 2004, eight Eastern European countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic, joined the European Union, giving residents greater freedoms to work in the UK.

Oxford City Council estimates that 3,580 migrants came to the city in the following six years.

Among them was mother-of-one, Ajata Gorniak, who moved from Poland four-and-a-half years ago.

The 29-year-old said: “Everything is so open and friendly here. The community of Polish people has grown so much and we’re always made to feel very welcome.”

Pregnant Mrs Gorniak has set up a Polish mothers’ group which attracts 50 mothers to Pegasus Primary School, Field Avenue, Blackbird Leys, on Saturday mornings.

She said: “I have made loads of English friends since arriving, and we have all learnt loads from each other.”

And Joanna Bagniewska, a 26-year-old PhD student at Oxford University and former president of the University’s Polish Society, said: “I’ve had a great experience here.

“I’ve never encountered any discrimination whatsoever and integration with local people is only getting easier over time.”

Humanists will be watching the religion count with keen interest – the 2001 poll ranked Oxford 351 bottom out of 376 places for Christians as a proportion of the population.

By contrast, it ranked 16 for Buddhist and tenth for “no religion”. The more traditional West Oxfordshire, meanwhile, was ranked 125th for Christians.

Steve Jones, pastor at the Oxford Community Church in Osney Mead, said: “I don’t think things are declining, things are just changing.”