A MAN from Dursley is worried about what the long-term health implications are for the area now that Stroud District Council (SDC) is no longer offering a free pest control service.

Retired aerospace engineer Royston Smith said rats are a regular visitor to his garden on The Quarry because they root around in his compost bins.

“What annoys me is the council encourages people to get their own composting bins and that entices the rats to come looking for food,” he said.

“People won’t pay £45. They will put poison down instead which is a danger to pets, birds and children.

"If you don’t use the proper controls then the problem will be massive. They will be all over the place.”

Getting rid of rats in homes has until recently been a free service for the district's residents but they now face paying £45 to have rats removed from their homes.

The service will still be free for those on benefits.

The move is part of a series of money-saving measures by SDC to meet a gap in its finances and expects to earn £32,000 from the extra charges but will keep fees for other pests, including mice, wasps, fleas and other insects, the same.

But Mr Smith, 68, thinks it will be a false economy as the decline in the use of the service because of the charges will mean only a negligible amount of money is made.

“They need a more sensible, nominal charge. At the end of the day is it the right area to be trying to save money?” he added.

Rat catching accounted for 1,134 visits by pest control officers last year, or 72 per cent of their total workload.

When the measures came in, head of environmental health, Jon Beckett, said charging for rat catching, and the subsequent decline in the use of the service by residents, would likely increase the rat population and the risk to public health.

A SDC spokesman said the vast majority of councils across the country do not offer the service for free and SDC were the only authority in the county to do so.

“Regrettably local authorities are all facing huge financial pressures, hence the need for us to make this change,” he said.

“We obviously considered the possibilities of any negative impacts in coming to this decision and will be monitoring the situation carefully when charges come into effect in April.

“We offer a wide range of pest control services and believe all our charges are much cheaper than those charged by commercial pest control companies so will be promoting their availability much more than we have before.”

The National Pest Technicians Association estimates that, as a result of councils starting to charge for pest control and people declining to pay, there has been a increase in the UK rat population of 69 per cent over seven years.