A new police text message service has been shelved after it was used just three times a day.The report doesn’t say how many of them were real messages, though. Bit of an oversight, or a deliberate omission?
The text number 66101 was launched in March by the-then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in a £3.5million advertising blitz.
It allowed the public to use a mobile phone to text their postcode and the word 'PLEDGE' to report low-level crime.
However it has now been branded an 'expensive failure' after the Home Office today admitted that the service had attracted just 3,000 messages nationally in its first three months in operation.
By May, it sounds like even the pranksters had got bored:
In May it received just 91 text messages - fewer than three a day - and has now been quietly dropped.Like Jacqui herself…
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'Both the police pledge and the new national police target seem to have ended up with forces spending money on PR exercises which could be better spent on frontline policing.'Yes indeed.
I’m sure you won’t do that though, when you get in.
Matthew Sinclair, Research Director at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'The policing pledge always looked like it was going to be an expensive failure but it is incredible that, within just a few months, the new text message service it created is down to just a few users per month.Hold your hoses. It doesn’t look like they’ve learned this lesson yet.
'It is vital that lessons are learned from this failure and governments stop trying to fix the police through gimmicky initiatives and, instead, make the police accountable to local people who can really see the changes that are needed.'
The Home Office seems to believe that the rumours of the death of this scheme have been greatly exaggerated:
A spokesman for the Home Office said: 'This is a part of the government's Justice Seen, Justice Done campaign which launched in March.Why, if it’s not a success now, do you think it might be in the autumn?
'The public were invited to text "PLEDGE" and their postcode to 66101 to obtain their neighbourhood police team's contact number for people who did not have access to the web.'
He added: 'The next phase of the campaign will launch in the autumn and we plan to resume the text service then, but it will not run in the interim as this is not cost effective.'
Or are we locked into a contract for this wretched thing that we can’t get out of?