Islington Council has certainly made a financial mess of its efforts to tackle dog fouling. It has disbanded its controversial ‘dog squad’ – the biggest in the country, it seems – after having spent some £240,000 in a three month period from May of last year. It had deployed 22 officers to patrol the borough night and day and issue fines to people caught letting their dogs foul the pavements.
The figure is eye-watering enough on its own, especially when you consider that it was spent in such a short period, but begins to look positively scandalous when it becomes clear, as has been reported, that the number of fines issued in 2012/13, when the dog squad was operational, is actually lower than the number issued the previous year. The actual number of fines issued by the Council for dog fouling by the ‘dog squad’ in 2102/13 was 36—ten fewer than in 2011/12!
Islington Council had announced this ‘dog squad’ initiative with much fanfare in March 2012, claiming that it would recoup most of its cost from fixed penalty notices. However, doubts were expressed right from the start concerning costs and especially the likelihood of fines recovering any significant sum. In fact, with fines of £80 reducible to £50 for prompt payment, the Council would have had to issue at least 1,000 fines a month to recover its costs, a huge target which brings the actual result—a paltry 36 fines—into its true perspective.
Amazingly, the Council still claims that the scheme has been ‘money well spent’ and ‘an enormous success in changing people’s behaviour’. One is bound to ask what evidence they can supply to justify these claims.
Did they quantify the amount of dog mess in the Borough before and after the exercise (surely the only proper evidence that anyone took any notice of the dog squad) or did they engage with dog owners to gauge the effect of their scheme on their attitudes and claimed behaviour? I would be surprised if they did either, but if they did, many local taxpayers would be interested to hear their results. I can’t say I've noticed any improvement myself...
Had anyone involved bothered to think before spending all that taxpayers’ money, they would have seen quite quickly that it was unlikely to recover more than a small part of its costs, and that £240,000 was a ludicrous sum to lavish on a project whose results probably could never be measured, at a time when councils everywhere are supposed to be trying to save taxpayers’ money.
Dog fouling is undoubtedly a nuisance in Islington, as it is elsewhere, but throwing vast sums of money at the problem in this thoughtless way is not going to solve it.