Yesterday Full Fact broke the news that Boris Johnson had been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for the way in which he released statistics for the media after we had raised concerns.
The figures, showing a drop in crime on the capital’s transport network, were given to members of the press at a media event organised to publicise a decline in incidents. However the statistics were, at the time, unpublished and remained so for two weeks after the event.
The transport crime figures in question are not currently covered by the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, the guidelines designed to ensure the quality and impartiality of the data. Had they been, the Mayor’s release would have constituted a breach of the Code.
In light of this, Authority Chairman Sir Michael Scholar described the practices as “poor” and warned it could be “damaging to public trust” in the statistics.
The BBC have now picked up the story, and their coverage contains the following response from City Hall.
“A spokesperson for the mayor said: “Londoners will understandably want to know how safe their transport system is and the mayor will always seek to reassure them.”
He said the accuracy of the figures had not been questioned and the use of the statistics was not subject to the regime suggested by Sir Michael.
However, he added, they would happy to look at the suggestions made.”
Sir Michael’s letter states that the Authority will be suggesting to the Government that the figures in question by reclassified as official statistics to bring them into the Code’s remit.
Sit Michael also invited Mr Johnson to undertake to comply with the Code “as a matter of principle” even though he is not bound by it.
It is something of an anomaly that Ministers in central Government as well as those in the Devolved Assemblies are covered by the Code when the Mayor is not.
It is encouraging that City Hall states that the Mayor will be “happy to look at” this suggestion. We look forward to seeing if he takes up the Authority’s invitation.