Statistics Authority rebuke vindicates concerns over Mayor’s announcements

Darren Johnson represents the Green Party on the London Assembly

London Assembly Member Darren Johnson says a recent rebuke for the Mayor from the UK Statistics Authority proves concern expressed about City Hall’s use of statistics and announcements is justified.

I recently wrote an article which covered the omissions and misleading facts contained within a selection of mayoral press releases and statements.

I think that a quick update is in order, given that the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar KCB, has rebuked the Mayor for releasing transport crime statistics that were “damaging to public trust”.

By coincidence, my colleague Jenny Jones had already submitted a question to the Mayor asking him to sign up to the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, which is what Sir Michael is now asking Boris to do.

The question relates to the Mayor of London’s housing figures, as the Mayor often uses statistics from the Homes and Communities Agency that aren’t publicly available in debates about affordable housing, for example in this exchange.

If we want people to understand and trust debates about the number of local police on their streets and affordable homes being built in their area, The London Mayor needs to be above board in his use of statistics.

I noticed that a recent Guardian feature on electric vehicles has Boris Johnson talking about his own conversion to electric vehicles a few years back. It clearly implies that he drives an electric car. Which seems at odds with his Telegraph article slamming the cost of petrol on his Sunday morning journey to pick up the papers at the local petrol station.

The overly optimistic references to the Mayor’s electric vehicle programme in the Guardian feature also show that my hazard warning about the Mayor’s press releases on electric vehicles has not reached some corners of the Guardian’s offices.

Finally, I had a reply to my question on the Mayor’s £1m green taxi fund. This £1m fund has featured in numerous media reports in October 2009 and again in December 2010. Not only is the £1m the same money in 2009 and 2010, but it hasn’t actually been spent yet as the 2009 project was cancelled for “legal reason”.

Nor will it be spent, according to the answer, until “taxi manufacturers produce a new, suitably qualified vehicle and this taxi commences operating in London”.

I look forward to the Mayor re-announcing it then.