Failed dog-fouling enforcement scheme cost Borders council more than £40,000

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson, then Scottish Borders Council's environmental services executive member, with new 3GS dog fouling and littering enforcement officers Tony Garrick, left, and Paul Marenghi at the launch of the controversial scheme in 2016.
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson, then Scottish Borders Council's environmental services executive member, with new 3GS dog fouling and littering enforcement officers Tony Garrick, left, and Paul Marenghi at the launch of the controversial scheme in 2016.

Scottish Borders Council has admitted that half of all dog-fouling fines issued under its responsible pet ownership pilot scheme went unpaid, leading to the cost of the trial project being far higher than expected.

That pilot scheme outsourced dog fouling enforcement to 3GS, a South Yorkshire-based private-sector company, and ran from June 2016 to May 2017.

In that time, just 19 fixed-penalty notices were issued for dog-fouling by 3GS, and only nine of those were paid directly. Two more were paid as fiscal fines via the procurator fiscal.

A report on the pilot scheme, due to be heard by Scottish Borders councillors this week, said: “The remaining fines went unpaid due to a number of varying factors including the incorrect serving of notices, offenders providing false personal information or third parties failing to provide information to meet prescribed timeframes.”

“Some of the challenges encountered related to mobilisation and effectiveness of the external enforcement officers, who took time to become effectively engaged.

“Initiation and start-up took twice as long as programmed, which caused delays to enforcement actions and reporting.”

In launching the pilot project, the council was following in the footsteps of local authorities in England and Wales that had tried similar schemes with some success.

However, though non-payment of fixed-penalty notices in England and Wales can immediately be escalated to criminal courts, with legal costs being paid by defendants should they lose their cases, Scottish local authorities can only pursue unpaid money via civil proceedings, yielding a much lower rate of payment.

As a result, the income generated by fixed-penalty notices was much lower than the council anticipated and thus offset the cost of the scheme by far less than had been hoped.

In total, the 12-month pilot scheme cost £49,879 but generated just £3,800 in income.

A council spokesperson said: “Payment of fixed-penalty notices for dog fouling can be difficult to complete due to a variety of factors.

“While we would wish to have improved the payment rate, our percentage figures were on a par with number of other Scottish local authorities.”

Following the pilot scheme, 3GS was hired to continue providing enforcement services, on a monthly basis, up until last month.