Opposition parties on the London Assembly have called on Boris Johnson to “repair public trust in his statistics” after the Mayor was reprimanded for his use of transport crime statistics in a way which was “damaging to public trust”.
Sir Michael Scholar, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, has written to the Mayor to express concern that City Hall’s use of crime statistics “as part of a media event to publicise the success of your policies, some time ahead of their normal release date” was “poor practice, and was damaging to public trust in the statistics produced by Transport for London.”
In this letter Sir Michael says he will ask the Home Secretary and Minister for the Cabinet Office to reclassify TfL’s statistics as Official Statistics to ensure that they are “treated with the same care and propriety as is now required by law for the most significant official statistics.”
The letter continues: “Whatever their answer, I believe that selective prior release, as in your Press Release of 21 February, was poor practice, and was damaging to public trust in the statistics produced by Transport for London.
“The Code of Practice is very clear about this. It says that statistical reports should be published ‘separately from any other statement or comment about the figures’; that ‘no statement or comment – based on prior knowledge – is issued to the Press or published ahead of the publication of the statistics’; and that ‘no indication of the substance of a statistical report is made public or given to the media’ prior to publication.”
Sir Michael calls on the Mayor “to undertake in future to comply with the Code, as a matter of principle” even though he is not currently required to do so by law.
Assembly Members have been quick to seize on the rebuke in support of past accusations of selective and inaccurate use of statistics by the Mayor’s administration, including those of police numbers in the Mayor’s latest budget.
Jenny Jones, a Green Party AM, said: “This isn’t just about bus crime statistics. We have a problem with the Mayor using unpublished statistics on house building and any number of other topics.”
Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon said Mr Johnson “should never play games by selectively releasing data and spinning a misleading line, especially over something as important as crime statistics.”
Pidgeon added: “By attempting to paint a rosy picture about crime statistics before the figures were officially published the Mayor has damaged public trust in statistics. ”
Labour’s deputy leader on the London Assembly, John Biggs, said: “Boris Johnson was caught out misleading people about the number of police on our streets. Now he’s been criticised for his use of his crime stats. This Mayor promised transparency and openness but more and more we’re seeing spin and fiddling of figures.”
A spokesman for the Mayor said: “The UK Statistics Authority has not questioned the accuracy of figures we issued showing a significant fall in crime on the transport network over the course of this Mayoralty.”
The spokesman added: “The use of these statistics is not subject to the regime suggested by Sir Michael Scholar, although we are happy to look at the suggestions he has made.”