Councils are being warned to think hard before cutting, outsourcing or introducing charges for pest control services.
Experts say trends identified in the industry in 2009 will have been accelerated by austerity measures – increasing the risk of public health problems and uncontrolled costs.
BASIS PROMPT, which registers qualified pest control technicians, is urging officers and councillors to consider the long-term implications of short-term budget cuts for 2013/2014.
Rob Simpson, managing director at BASIS PROMPT, believes cutting or scaling back pest control services could prove to be a costly false economy.
Mr Simpson said: “That introduces the danger that infestations will not be dealt with at all or dealt with by untrained providers.
“If that’s the case, there are obvious public health and cost implications when a situation becomes so bad the council has to step in anyway to fulfil its statutory public health obligations.
“More authorities are also thinking about charging for pest control services, and I understand the budgetary pressures they are under. But times are hard for residents as well, and if pests aren’t dealt with because of that then once again there are public health and cost implications.”
Research by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s (CIEH) National Pest Advisory panel found a fall in the number of local authorities offering pest control services between 2002 and 2009 and a significant increase in contracted out services.
Mr Simpson added: “When outsourcing is the only option, I would advise authorities to build BASIS PROMPT membership into approval requirements. It gives councils the peace of mind that controllers are well-trained and up to speed with the latest advances and regulations.”
“The CIEH findings were from before the savage spending reviews we’ve seen over the last three years. I’m absolutely certain the pace of change will have increased.
“I understand the motivations, but contracting out brings its own pitfalls. Contract management and scrutiny can be costly, as can an increased need for enforcement.
“And in the longer term, outsourcing can lead to skills being lost to the council that allow an efficient, strategic approach to pest control taking into account things like building and public space design or climate change.”