Will 2014 be the year of the rat if Cambridge City Council axes its pest control team?
Infestations will spread unchecked if Cambridge City Council goes ahead with plans to axe its pest control team, unions fear.
The two-strong team, which has almost 60 years’ combined experience eradicating rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs, is set to be closed down to save £54,000 annually.
Many of the team’s services are provided for free and Unison fears the cost of getting in a private company will deter landlords and residents from tackling the problem – allowing it to get worse.
There are also concerns that residents will switch to DIY treatments, potentially putting themselves in danger or increasing pests’ resistance to poisons.
The council is obliged by law to prevent infestations, so will continue to serve notices on businesses and households that harbour pests, but it would no longer provide an eradication service.
The authority’s team also currently operates on council land including play areas, parks and allotments, meaning taxpayers would have to pay private firms to keep down rodents at these sites.
Liz Brennan, the Unison branch secretary, called on the council to drop the plans.
She said: “Enforcement is more expensive than prevention and we feel that this is a short-sighted measure.
“Council staff are experts in pest control and work to rid the city of pests free of charge. Private companies will only do the job as long as it makes a profit.
“The consequences of cutting this service have not fully been considered by the council and we feel it is a false economy.”
Last year the News revealed how the pest controllers had dealt with 111 bedbug infestations, up from 76 the previous year.
There were 409 rat cases but just six cases involving cockroaches.
Cllr Jean Swanson, the executive councillor for environmental services, said savage funding cuts were to blame
She said: “Private companies are doing most of the pest control work in Cambridge now and we are in a position of having to make difficult decisions. Most of the other authorities around us have already closed their service.
“It’s not an easy decision to make and I’m very sad it had to come at Christmas.”
Cllr Swanson said the council would provide residents with information about how to find pest controllers and would be setting aside some money to support families on low incomes who could not afford private contractors.
Courtesy of the Cambridge News