Councils axe pest control services despite fears of ‘World’s most resistant rats’
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Councils axe pest control services despite fears of ‘world’s most resistant rats’
Twenty-nine local authorities have shut down their pest control service in the last two years because of budget cuts, despite rats in some parts of Britain becoming resistant to poison.
The figures were revealed in a BBC Panorama investigation aired tonight, which found that in many areas residents are relying on private companies to rid them of rats, bed bugs and cockroaches with other councils now charging for a service.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) told the programme the matter was for individual councils – but that there were ways of protecting front-line services without having to charge.
Although councils have a duty to keep their own land free of rats and mice, they are not legally required to provide a pest control service.
Cornwall Council shut down its pest control service last year.
Lance Kennedy, the council’s cabinet support member for community safety and public protection, advised residents who could afford it, to seek a professional.
He said: ”Those who can’t? It’s that grey area I’m afraid that the cuts affect somebody. I would still expect my staff to give advice. I don’t like it – and I wouldn’t expect the public to like it – but I can only deliver what I can afford.”
One of those charging for a service is Stevenage Borough Council, which brought in a £47 fee last year.
Chris Woodard, pest control manager at the local authority, said calls dropped by about 50% on the public health side when the charges were introduced. He said: “I think people thought, ‘we’ll try and deal with it ourselves’.”
The £47 is for as many visits required and the council says calls have begun to pick up this year. The team has been cut from four to two.
Graham Jukes, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said the resources to actually deal with the problem around the country are “diminishing”.
He said: “I believe that the problem will get worse. Populations will increase; damage and the potential loss of wellbeing will be increased as well.”
In one area of the country, at a farm in West Berkshire, rats are becoming resistant to the only poisons citizens are allowed to use. The problem began because of the genetic mutation in a small number of rats, which made them resistant to some poisons, so the population grew.
Farmer David Cripps told Panorama: “We were buying poison at a vast rate of knots and we just weren’t killing the rats.”
“The lowest point was when I found a family of rats living in the poison bag – and living there quite happily,” he said. “They were eating it and it was like giving them candy or sweets.”
The programme reported that strains of ‘rat resistance’ have been found in areas stretching from Kent to South West Scotland.
The Health and Safety Executive is launching a consultation on the use of stronger poisons outdoors – currently prohibited because of their effects on wildlife.
Dr Alan Buckle, visiting research fellow at the University of Reading, warned: “We’ve got the world’s most resistant rat in this part of the world and increasingly that resistance is spreading.”
Buckle added: “The worst case scenario is that these highly resistant rats spread all over the country and we’ll be in a situation where you can only effectively use the three compounds which at the present time you’re not allowed to use.”