One of the silly decisions by last year's Conservative-LibDem administration was to put up the fees for pest control above what people would be able to afford, which has not been great for the council's finances or for residents who would otherwise have used the service - we've seen a drop off of over 80% in demand for the service.
We are currently doing our annual review of fees and charges and residents who don't want rats in their garden will be pleased to know that we are slashing the charge and reintroducing a discount for elderly, disabled and low income households. We are not just relying on poison though to control pests in our borough we are at the same time upping our game on preventative measures to ensure that treatment is only used where it is needed and to support residents and businesses to make their properties unattractive to rodents.
It may not be glamorous but this is a very practical example of the difference between a Labour administration and a Conservative-Liberal coalition: we looked at the affect on residents and the wider picture including finances, they focused on just upping fees in the hope that residents wouldn't have an alternative.
Council press release below:
Discounts for Reading residents who want to make use of the Council's pest control services to get rid of rats or mice look set to be reinstated.
In January 2011 fees charged by the Council's pest control service for a 3-visit course of treatment increased significantly. From being either free to elderly, disabled and residents on low incomes, or just £25-£30 for all other Reading residents, they increased to a cost of £114 for everyone, with no concessions offered. All prices include VAT.
The price increases have resulted in a big drop in requests for treatment - from around 600 a year to just 7 a month on average – making the current pest control service financially unviable. The Council and councillors have also received feedback from the public unhappy with the price increase.
As a result the current administration is now proposing to reinstate discounts for pest control services offered by Reading Borough Council.
The new cost of a 3-visit course of treatment would be £45 for concessionary 'Your Reading Passport' holders, and £70 for all other Reading residents. The prices include VAT and would be effective from January 2012.*(see Notes To Editors)
The proposals will go to a meeting of Reading Borough Council's Cabinet on November 28 for approval, as part of the Council's wider review of fees and charges. ** (see Notes To Editors)
Paul Gittings, Reading's Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, said: 'Given the dramatic fall-off in use of the Council's expert in-house service, we felt it necessary to introduce a much more realistic pricing structure, with concessionary elements re-introduced. We will continue to closely monitor the situation to make sure residents' interests are best served.'
While Reading Borough Council provides a pest control service to residents, it is a non–statutory service and the national picture is varied, with some local authorities offering no pest control service at all and others offering subsidised services for vulnerable groups only.
If approved, the proposed cut in treatment prices in Reading is intended to run parallel with a more strategic approach to the treatment of rats and mice across the town. This could include the promotion of environmental control methods available to residents such as filling gaps, undertaking drainage repairs and the removal of food sources, where rats or mice have become a problem.
• Private Sector Renewal Policy grants available for owner occupiers on means tested benefits to carry out small repairs
• The availability of a 'handyman' scheme funded by the Council to those aged over 60 who could carry out small repairs such as pest proofing, for the cost of labour and materials.
• The possibility of Council enforcement action against landlords if living conditions are considered to be a hazard
• For council tenants, the Property Services team to undertake investigation and repairs where necessary
Changes to drainage legislation which came into effect last month saw private sewers move from being the responsibility of property owners to that of the statutory water undertaker. In Reading's case this is Thames Water. This change means it will become easier to investigate infestations where there is a link to drainage. The report to Cabinet on November 28 raises the issue of closer working with Thames Water where drainage is thought to be an issue.