A council charge for rat extermination has been suspended after elected members voiced major concerns about an apparent spike in infestations across Renfrewshire.
Labour councillors Karen Kennedy and Eddie Devine lodged a motion at a virtual meeting on Thursday requesting the £61.20 charge be temporarily pulled after being flooded with complaints from Paisley residents.
Environment convener Cathy McEwan argued the council imposed one of the lowest charges for pest control in the country and highlighted the number of reports about rat issues had actually reduced over the past few years.
She tabled an amendment arguing there was “no evidence” to suggest there had been a spike in infestations.
But following a lengthy debate, elected members opted to remove the charge by 22 votes to 17.
Between 2018/29 and 2020/21, calls to the council concerning rats have gone down by almost 40 per cent from 1,212 to 751.
But Councillor Devine said the figures “meant nothing” as many residents are reluctant to report problems because they can’t afford the bill.
“I cannot understand how Councillor McEwan is saying the amount of folk complaining is going down,” said Councillor Devine.
“Councillor Kennedy has mentioned people can’t afford £61.20 if they own their house and they look for a council tenant to put in a request.
“I am dumbfounded by the figures.
“They mean nothing. Go out and look at the places I’ve been to.
“These are not dirty places but rats are running amok. They are eating their way into bins.”
Councillor Kennedy added: “I have heard about a lot of problems, particularly in the west end of Paisley.
“The tenants and residents are coming and saying they don’t want to report it because they are worried about getting charged.
“The council needs to get on top of this and I do believe the charges are what is stopping people reporting it.”
Other elected members from outside of Paisley including Andy Doig, Derek Bibby, and John Hood all said they had received a large number of complaints with rat problems cropping up across Johnstone as well as villages such as Kilbarchan.
Councillor Bibby added: “One phone call does not demonstrate the degree of the problem.
“It could be one rat or a dozen.
“So the significance of the issue isn’t demonstrated by the figures.
“There has been an increase and that needs to be addressed.”
But Councillor McEwan insisted there had not been a surge in infestations and asked for “common sense to prevail”.
She said: “Renfrewshire was one of the last councils to introduce a charge for pest control services. The market rate is generally over £100.
“Removing the charge is counter-productive.
“It would reduce much-needed income which can be invested in the service to increase the number of pest control operators in this council.
“Can I ask for some common sense to prevail here? The service is operating well.”
Chief environmental health officer Chris Dalrymple told elected members eliminating vermin was a “top priority” and there were plans in place to increase the number of pest control operators.
Councillor McEwan added: “Councillors agreed to temporarily suspend pest control charges for rats and mice.
“With more people being at home due to the pandemic, we believe this may be contributing to more sightings as we have not been receiving an increased number of requests for service, but we will consider the issue fully over the coming months and update elected members after the summer period.
“Our pest control service will continue to support our communities.”