750 callouts to deal with rats in Hartlepool in past year
Hartlepool saw more than 750 callouts following sightings of rats last year, new statistics show.
Figures show that the town’s council dealt with 1,277 callouts relating to infestations of ants, rats, mice and wasps in 2015/16.
Pest controllers responded at a rate of more than 13 per 1,000 residents – which puts the town 30th in the UK in a list ranking each council by the total number of callouts relative to population.
There were 752 callouts to deal with rats, 251 appeals to get rid of wasps and 57 to get rid of ants.
The data comes from the fifth study carried out by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) analysing nationwide demand for pest control.
The trade body sent Freedom of Information requests to all 390 district, borough and unitary authorities in the UK, with all but 26 replying.
Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA technical manager, said: “Our study provides the most comprehensive indication of the demand placed on local authorities for pest control.
“There may be a number of localised factors why certain areas seem to have high numbers of particular pests.
“Some authorities, for example, will have many urban areas within their boundaries while others will be largely rural.
“Some will have lots of food establishments, which tend to attract pests, and others could have less frequent bin collections.
“But it’s important to recognise higher figures could simply illustrate that a local authority is working pro actively to manage any issues.”
The survey reveals the number of reports responded to by councils across the UK plummeted by 22 per cent last year.
It shows staffing levels within their pest control teams has dropped by almost 25 per cent since 2012 and that response rates have fallen by 33 per cent during the same period.
Mrs Ward-Thompson said: “Local authorities have been under immense pressure to produce savings over the last five years and pest control seems to have been one of the services to have taken a big hit.
“Many councils who once provided pest control free of charge have now either introduced charges or done away with their service altogether in a bid to balance the books.
“And our survey reveals many of those still offering a service are responding to significantly fewer reports due to a lack of resources, which is quite alarming.
“That has already had a significant impact on the pest population, according to our members, and the problem is only likely to get worse.
“We want to ensure this does not have an impact on public health and that short-term budget cuts don’t result in higher costs further down the line.”
Of the 292 local authorities still operating a public pest control service, only seven per cent offer it free of charge.
The BPCA says it’s a trend which has the potential to create big problems, particularly in low-income areas.
“The cost of professional treatments, either through the local authority or the private sector, can be prohibitive when people are struggling to make ends meet,” added Mrs Ward-Thompson.
“But if an infestation isn’t dealt with properly and effectively, it’s likely to spread and that can create a much bigger issue.”
Hartlepool Borough Council were unavailable for comment.