Cheshire East Council is reviewing its pest control service but will remain just as committed as ever to tackling infestation.
Cheshire East’s current in-house service deals with a variety of pests including rats, mice, wasps, ants and fleas.
The service makes a loss and its £60,000 subsidy is being removed as part of planned savings in the Council’s 2015/16 budget.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cabinet member for communities, has been asked to review three options, including leaving the service unchanged or scrapping it altogether.
A Council report says that a third option of reducing the service would be the most appropriate way to make savings while meeting Cheshire East’s commitment to deal with public health pests.
Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure that their area is kept free from rats and mice but there is no requirement to provide a pest control service.
The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 gives Councils enforcement powers to make property owners take action.
Under the option for reduced provision, the Council’s pest control service would concentrate on treatment of rodents in domestic premises and would continue doing contract work, including placing rat bait in sewers for United Utilities.
To help the service cover its costs, current charges of £10 for treatment of rats in domestic premises would be increased to £40 with a concessionary charge of £20 for those on income-related benefits.
Ten years ago, almost all local authorities offered free or subsidised pest control to their residents. However, a survey in 2013 found that only seven per cent of those with an in-house service still offered free treatments. Cheshire East began charging in October 2012.
In recent years there has been a steady decline in the number of call-outs, partly because of an increase in private sector pest control services.
If the service is reduced, the report suggests that the Council should give details of private providers on its website and train its customer contact centre in dealing with queries from the public.
A reduced service would also mean the loss of two of the five team members through redundancy.
Councillor Gilbert said: “We take our duties on pest control very seriously and will continue to do so.
“However, we also have to consider whether we can justify the cost of our existing in-house service for the treatment of some pests when this service is offered by the private sector.
“If we opt to reduce the service, we will remain committed to tackling rodent infestation through providing treatments and exercising our enforcement powers.”