Breckland Pest Control Services (Agenda item 9)
Report of Elizabeth Gould, Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services.
The report requested Members’ approval to withdraw from the Pest Control Service with affect from 1 April 2014.
The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman made reference to the comments made by the Commission at its meeting on 18 July 2013. A presentation had been provided followed by a healthy debate and many concerns had been expressed. The Commission had agreed that the proposal to withdraw the Pest Control Service should not be supported. Concerns had also been raised about people who were troubled by rats from a neighbouring property where the neighbour was not willing to pay to have the problem treated. It would therefore be incumbent of the Council to take action which, in the long run, would not save the Council money.
The Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services said that this was a really difficult subject and she could see the problems from both sides. In response to the Commission’s concerns she advised that there were provisions in place for problems that were caused by neighbouring properties. Members were reminded that the Council was trying to balance its budget and difficult decisions would have to be made; additionally, the results from the ‘Could We Should We’ consultations should not be ignored, otherwise what was the point of carrying out such an exercise.
Councillor Duigan asked the Commission Chairman if Members, when they rejected the proposal, had come up with an alternative of how this money could be saved elsewhere. The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman said that they had not as the debate had not mentioned the finances of the Council and felt that the recommendation should have been worded as such.
Councillor Gilbert also urged the Cabinet not to support the recommendation. The Pest Control Service was vital for those people who had problems and it was money well spent to help eradicate such pests. He was in full support of the Commission’s recommendation.
The Executive Member for Localism, Community and Environmental Services asked Members to take note of the ‘Could We Should We’ results. It was also noted that there were other mechanisms available that dealt with neighbours’ rats.
Councillor Armes said that she felt very strongly about this matter and felt that there was not much weight behind the ‘Could We Should We’ consultation. She asked how much the service cost per household as she was certain that if the service was stopped people would start trying to extinguish vermin themselves by using harsh chemicals that could cause damage to the environment. She also had concerns about rats in general in public open space.
The Executive Member for Internal Services asked what powers Environmental Health had with such matters. Members were informed that the Law Enforcement Power Act allowed the Council to serve notice on any landowner to require treatment on land, or require/impose a charge on property. The Environmental Services Manager advised that such powers were used fairly infrequently and further advised that it would be impossible to eradicate all rats. The Executive Member for Internal Services was pleased that the Council had sufficient powers to enter property; he was aware, however, that Breckland Council had to find savings even though the cost of the Pest Control Service probably worked out to be a few pence per household, but the deficit was a cumulative figure that had to be dealt with and every pound that could be saved would count. He felt that if the Contact Centre was able to point the public in the right direction he would be quite happy to support the report’s recommendation.
Councillor Sharpe asked if the Council had a statutory duty to protect the health of its constituents. Members were informed that the Council did not have a statutory duty not unless there was an infestation.
The Executive Member for Performance & Business Development respected Councillor Armes’ comments and assured her that chemicals such as rat poison were only sold in a controlled environment. He also assured Members that there were many national and local companies that provided a pest control service that were perfectly acceptable. All Members were aware that the Council had to make savings and therefore he was happy to support the report’s recommendation.
Do nothing and retain the Pest Control Service at a budgeted cost of £65,630 in 2014/15 including tendering costs; the cost being offset by income from seasonal insect treatments, circa. £19,530. Net cost to Breckland Council would be circa. £46,100 (inc. contract re-tendering costs).
Withdraw the Pest Control Service with a saving of circa. £46,100 in 2014/15 and provide appropriate sign-posting to commercial providers via the Customer Services Team.
Retain the Pest Control Service but introduce a charge for domestic rodent treatments at an amount similar to that charged by South Norfolk Council i.e. £30. Based on the current rodent figures for 2012/13 with some reduction for people not able to pay, 400 payments of £30 and an income of £12,000 could be expected. Net cost to Breckland Council of the Pest Control Service would therefore be circa. £34,100.
Retain the Pest Control Service but implement appropriate charges to ensure that the service was cost neutral. An income of £19,530 from insects (based on budgeted income was assumed. If 400 rodent treatments were provided each year then a charge of £98.90 would need to be levied to realise an additional income of £39,560 which would make the service cost neutral (excluding re-tendering costs of £6540).
Pest Control was not a statutory function and disinvestment would make a significant contribution to the Council’s ‘efficiency programme’. There was public support for disinvestment as evidenced in the “Could We Should We” consultation events. Experience from elsewhere suggested that the impact on residents and businesses diminished over time and was not significant.
Retaining the Pest Control Service and introducing charges for all treatments could make the service cost neutral. That said, it would be difficult to predict the level of income that would be generated due to the evidenced fluctuations in demand and the overall reduction in demand for such services. Furthermore, there would be a need to re-tender and renegotiate any contractual arrangements with an associated cost to the Authority to vary fees and charges annually to reflect the demand for such a service.
RESOLVED that the Pest Control Service with affect from 1 April 2014 be withdrawn and appropriate sign-posting to commercial providers via the Customer Services Team be provided.
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