An ex sailor contacted me today from St Andrews Road in Northampton, desperate for help because his house has been overrun with rats!
Several mild winters, his proximity to the river via Millers Meadow and refuse sacks being placed on the street days before collection have made him and his family a target for hordes of rattus norvegicus, and his is rightly concerned of the damage this could have on the health of his two young children (10 months and 2 yrs) and his disabled partner. Being an ex sailor he understands very well the dangers of Weil's disease and his weekly shopping bill has also increased by the need for him to disinfect all the surfaces in the kitchen prior to cooking.
The trouble for my constituent though is that he is living on benefit because his wife is disabled, and he is the main carer for their two young children, so money is tight. So he phoned the council in a cry for help to reduce the infestation. He has also tried domestic rat poison but to no avail. So in desperation he rung the council.
"Can't help you" came the reply, "budget cuts"
As of April 1st 2009 the Liberal Democrat council has withdrawn its free service to those on benefits to save a few bob. But as many of us predicted would happen, it is not those who can afford to call out a pest control operative at £65 a time that would suffer, it is those who can't afford a private service that are being placed in the front line.
What sort of false economy is this? I can understand to a degree reductions in any subsidised service for those who can afford to pay, but by the council not dealing with infestations in houses where the option of a paid service is not a realistic expectation then all they will do is make the problem harder to deal with in the general area and spread the colony.
Local Authorities have a duty under section 2 of the "Prevention of Damage by pests act 1949" to take action to ensure any infestation is avoided and dealt with, but it seems that our friendly Liberal Democrats at the Guildhall believe that their duty ends at serving notices and fines to householders irrespective as to whether or not they can afford to take action themselves. How about some action being taken against Network Rail? or the Environment Agency? or Anglian Water? or even themselves for cutting back on treatment on their own land?
Surely it is in the whole community's interest for them to take collective action as a local authority in such circumstances? They must act NOW!
Day by day, week by week the real problems facing people everyday as a result of the massive cuts implemented by the Liberal DemocRATS at the Town Hall are being revealed, supplys of black bins are in very scarse supply and not being delivered to residents on time, street sweeping has been reduced, flytipping out of control, grass not being cut as regular as it was turning the roadside into the new "wildlife areas" so trumpeted by the portfolio holder at the time the cuts were sold to us as service improvements.
So how will they sell this one? Free Pets for hard up families with under fives?
So today I am calling on them to get real for once, and accept that this crazy, ill thought out policy needs badly reviewing and changing immediately before the problem escalates into a real infestation, with real health consequences for local residents. I don't think the rats mind one bit whose house they infest? and once they are in one house they can breed far more easily in the warm, and then move in next door, and so on.
What would the cost be of reinstating a free service for those on benefits? or even a subsidised service at an affordable level? And what will be the cost of them not doing so?