Mayor's transport crime briefing risks "damaging public trust" in statistics, watchdog warns

16 March 2011

The UK Statistics Authority has written to London Mayor Boris Johnson to criticise his use of transport crime figures, after Full Fact pointed out that they were being used in press releases without being made available to the public.

A letter from the Authority's Chairman, Sir Michael Scholar, stated that the Mayor's use of the numbers could be "damaging to public trust in the statistics."

Though statistics released by the Mayor are not covered by the Authority's rules, Sir Michael made clear that actions taken by Mr Johnson would have breached the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Sir Michael has written to Ministers to say he feels in future statistics relating to transport crime should fall within the Authority's remit.

Full Fact and the UK Statistics Authority have previously highlighted similar problems with way in which the Department for Work and Pensions released information to the media. Since November 2010 the Department has been required to make the data contained within press releases available to the public through 'ad hoc analyses' published on its website.

It is welcome to see the Authority taking action towards closing this loophole in rules covering official statistics. The Mayor should be covered by the same rules that bind central government and devolved administrations and the ministers need to act.

Although the Mayor is not currently subject to the rules, I think Londoners expect the man in charge of their city to adhere to the highest standards of transparency when issuing information about the capital.

We hope that the Mayor will publicly commit to following the rules in future.

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