Episode 7 Call the Council


Episode 7

Series following council officers. Council officers fight a fire that threatens the health of their residents and pursue a personal battle against the pigeon population.


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Transcript


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From waste and recycling to pest control and trading standards,

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the taxes that we pay to our local councils

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are used to provide many of our most essential services.

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I like people who are keen to recycle.

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In this series, we follow the front-line staff

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working behind the walls of Tameside town hall in Greater Manchester.

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Like council officers across the country, these local

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heroes are waging war on those blighting our communities.

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Oi, oi, oi! Excuse me, love. You can't do that.

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They're protecting us from hidden dangers...

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If there's rodent activity in your kitchen, you won't be opening tonight. It's that simple.

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..making sure our cash is spent on those who need it most...

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I'm at a loose end. I do not know where to turn.

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..and responding to their residents when they call the Council.

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Coming up in today's programme...

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Council officers fight a fire that's threatening

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the health of their residents...

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You can't burn trade waste. You're going to have to stop burning.

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..pursue a personal battle against the borough's pigeon population...

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"Please do not feed pigeons."

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..and tackle a takeaway that's in danger of being overrun by rats

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and raw sewage.

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There's still quite a lot of waste on the ground

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and there's a lot of rat droppings in here.

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Nearly two million people are employed by the UK's 433 local authorities.

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Who's next, please?

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These local heroes are fighting

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to protect us, the public - and our money.

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Whether it's pest control, food safety or trading standards,

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like most taxpayers in Britain, the people of Tameside expect

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a speedy response when they call the Council.

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Good morning, Environmental Services. Phil Rodgers speaking.

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The number of complaints that we normally receive can vary

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quite dramatically and one week I can get ten in a week or maybe more.

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Yeah. I'll see what I can do. OK.

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It depends whether there is some...

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Sometimes, when there are inherent issues

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that everybody in the local area wants dealing with,

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we'll get bombarded with complaints from the localised area

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so we'll be inundated.

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Every year Councils in England and Wales receive over

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50 million enquiries from residents asking for help or alerting

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the Council to something they feel is wrong.

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But before any of the officers at the Council HQ

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can start responding to today's calls,

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ever-vigilant Enforcement Officer Phil Rodgers has spotted someone

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causing a nuisance and needs to take action.

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Somebody's having a bit of a bonfire over there.

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-MAN:

-Have them!

-WOMAN:

-Go and get 'em!

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Whether it's from a fire like this or even road transport,

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air pollution harms our health and wellbeing.

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Currently, it's estimated to reduce the life expectancy

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of everyone in the UK by six months on average,

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at a cost of around £16 billion per year.

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In one year alone, local authorities received over

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14,000 complaints about smoke,

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significantly more than complaints

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made about any other nuisance.

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Officers Phil Rodgers

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and Pete Grimes are en route to investigate this latest issue.

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If you're going to burn something, you're going to create a smoke nuisance.

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Don't do it within a stone's throw of the Council buildings

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where everyone can see you, where the likelihood is someone's going to report it, never mind the fact

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that our office looks right over the top of it and we can see it!

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Excuse me, fella. Can we just have a word a minute, please, make?

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From the local authority. We need to come in and have a look, mate.

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Behind the gate, Phil and Pete find the fire,

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the man who started it and some potentially toxic materials.

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Under legislation, the Environmental Protection Act, Section 46,

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you can't burn trade waste. You're going to have to stop burning.

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You're going to have to get a skip or dispose of it by other means

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like going to the tip. The smoke issue causes a nuisance as well, so you've got to be really careful.

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-We're there in the Council office.

-We can see it.

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The landowner has paid the workmen to clear the space, and the officers

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need to step in before any toxic trade waste is added to the fire.

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Obviously the burning of tyres is distinctly bad because it

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creates huge amounts of pallid black, awful smoke and it stinks.

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It doesn't just rise off and disappear into the atmosphere.

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It often sinks and makes people's...

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Blackens people's washing, makes people's lives a misery.

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If people have got windows open and stuff, it's awful.

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That's asbestos. Probably asbestos.

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Likely it's going to be... That can't... That's got to go.

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There are potential health hazards

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associated with the inhalation of asbestos.

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If you ask for advice, we will give you the guidance that's

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appropriate on how to get rid of it

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and the Council will take it off your hands free of charge.

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However, obviously, if you are a commercial premises,

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and you're getting rid of that kind of stuff, well, unfortunately,

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there is a charge for getting rid of it.

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So obviously, that charge then leads people to want to get

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rid of it in manners which are not legal.

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So I'll let that die down. No more on that. All right, mate.

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Cheers for that.

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The current economic climate means times are tough

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but it looks like cutting corners has cost this man

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and his employer a lot more than they bargained for.

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He's probably agreed to do the job for 50 quid...

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-Yeah.

-And it's going to cost him 100 to get rid of that waste

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at an official registered tip site.

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He's just said there, to get one skip, one of the bigger skips,

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you're looking at £180.

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Rather go to a tip, or get a skip -

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not burn it cos it's a cheap way of doing it.

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Phil and Pete's speedy response to today's toxic smoke signals

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has extinguished the dangerous possibility of any hazardous fumes

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reaching Tameside's residents.

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Council busy bodies!

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Our local authorities fund their activities from three

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main sources - grants from central Government, Council tax

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and other locally generated fees and charges.

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But wherever the money is coming from,

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today's economic climate means every penny counts.

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So when some residents start costing us unnecessary cash,

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heroic Council officers get to work.

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After local business owners called the Council to complain about

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pigeon poo in the market square, Tameside's Pest Control Officer

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Brian Whelan has started a war against the local pigeon population,

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and the people encouraging them into the square by feeding them.

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They're just flying rats, if you ask me.

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They're not racing pigeons, or anything like that.

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They're feral birds. They're full of diseases

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and all they do is just guano everywhere.

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You've got statues, you got monuments and everything and they just poo all over it.

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We share the UK with an estimated

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18 million feral pigeons who can carry up to

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40 diseases harmful to humans.

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Their droppings have a destructive effect on structures,

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making pavements, ladders and fire escapes too dangerous to use.

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They're one of the few birds recognised by the Government

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as a nuisance pest and can be controlled using humane methods

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and only with a licence.

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But it's the public that are at the root of Brian's distress.

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It's my biggest bane and I just wish people

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would stop feeding the pigeons and just...

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Then town centres would be lovely.

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All your monuments, all your structures on buildings

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wouldn't have this spiking on or anything like that.

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It would all look nice.

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But because people encourage them, that's what happens and it is...

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It's a pet hate of mine, it really is. Ah... Don't...

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It gets me... It gets in my goat, honest!

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The problem area we've got where people are feeding

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the pigeons is this seating area.

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And as you can see, fair few roosting.

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A lot of foulings on the roofs, people come at certain

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times of the day, people have their own spot at a certain time.

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They'll come and throw a load of food down.

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But it's not just the pigeons, unfortunately.

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I mean, it'll also encourage rats,

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because there'll be a food source there for them so we have to

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stop it, because at the end of the day, it's a shopping centre.

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In a bid to stop the problem at source, Brian has set pigeon

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traps on the roof of the market hall that overlooks the market square.

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Once lured with corn, he relies on years of training

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and experience to keep the pigeon population under control.

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They're what we call dispatchers.

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Put it round the pigeon's neck, twist it, pull.

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Pigeon dies, put it in a bag, out of the way.

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Brian set his traps a few days ago

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and is hoping for a healthy haul this morning.

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Normally we'll have about... ten, twelve.

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Sometimes five in one, four in another.

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Something like that.

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Hopefully we'll have some in these.

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There's none in that.

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That one's empty, them two.

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Bit of a disappointment.

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One. That's an embarrassment.

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Oh, no - there's two.

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Obviously, they've got a big feed from down below.

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That's the problem we've got.

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You come back and it's like

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"How many birds did you get today?" "None."

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And it's a defeatist sort of thing because

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if there's nothing in the cage then you've just wasted the corn.

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And it is frustrating but you look down and you see why.

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The thing is, against any pest, it may take a little bit of time.

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But you will win the war in the end.

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There's only one winner, and that's us pest controllers.

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The feral pigeons, they cause a mess. They're a nuisance.

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I know it's not a pleasant job and it's not everybody's job.

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But there's jobs out there, you know, other people can't do.

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But someone has to do it, unfortunately.

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I mean, that's a poor show, two.

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It's not very good, I'll be honest with you.

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But we'll leave them set tonight and see if there's any more in tomorrow.

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Having bagged just two birds today,

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Brian's battle with the pigeon population of Tameside continues.

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But if he's going to win this war,

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he needs to enlist the human residents of the borough

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and persuade them to stop feeding his feathered foes.

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Coming up, Brian's campaign is joined by reinforcements.

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Have you got them signs?

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But mindless vandals put a dent in his enthusiasm and his progress.

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I can't believe this.

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While the nation's council officers are patrolling our streets,

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in town hall call centres up and down the country

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staff are busy helping residents when they call the council.

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Good afternoon, customer services, Jake speaking, can I help?

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But not all calls go quite to plan.

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People ring up and ask us to send somebody out

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to fix their washing machines, fix their fridges.

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What do you expect us to do? Council call centre -

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we deal with bin enquiries, we're not maintenance, we're not handymen.

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Good morning, customer services, how can I help?

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'There was a lady actually ringing me from Portland Basin,'

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the main canal in Tameside,

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and she was reporting a bin that was floating in the canal -

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and it isn't really funny - but as she was speaking to me,

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she actually fell into the canal,

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so all I could hear was this water and this lady going into the canal.

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We sent the emergency services and the lady was perfectly fine.

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I could hear this water! "Hello! Hello!" "I'm drowning!"

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Oh, dear. She did ring up the next week, just to say she was fine.

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"I'm still alive and I'm fine! Now, can you get my bin emptied?!"

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Thanks for calling. Bye.

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As well as keeping our air pollution-free

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and controlling the pest population,

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local councils are responsible

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for monitoring the hygiene of the nation's restaurants and takeaways.

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The satisfaction of the job, really, is to help people

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and to protect the people of Tameside,

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particularly the old and the vulnerable.

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Today, after concerned residents called the council,

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Khush Ahmed and his fellow enforcement officer Monica Gartside

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are inspecting a takeaway that has a history of rat infestations.

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When rodents access buildings or premises like that,

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they will walk across surfaces and, as we know, particularly rats,

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they are incontinent all the time

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so they will contaminate food or surfaces with their feet

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and the actual dropping themselves.

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The last thing you want is something like that to come across in food.

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The takeaway's under new management,

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but Monica's inspected these premises many times before,

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even forcing it to close when under the previous owners.

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I first went into the business about five years ago.

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Since then, it's been at least three to four owners.

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It's changed hands nearly every 12 months,

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which is never a good sign.

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It indicates the business isn't making any money, and if it doesn't

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make any profit, there's not going to be a lot invested in hygiene.

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With rat numbers estimated at ten million in the UK

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and pest control officers attending nearly

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20,000 rat-related callouts in one year,

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we are never far from a rodent that could be carrying

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listeria, weils and other deadly diseases.

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Monica and Khush are back today

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to see if there's any fresh evidence of rats.

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If there is, the officers could close the takeaway down again.

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Their first job is to inspect the takeaway's storeroom.

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Under previous owners, it had been overrun with rodents.

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Mr Sadeer, you need to clean all this up

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because this grease is offering a food source to rats.

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This is the old bait, this was laid by the previous owner.

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There was over one kilo of bait eaten in here.

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That's how bad the infestation was

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and the premises had to be closed down.

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You need to get rid of that pipe because it will allow a rat

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to go into that pipe right through into your business.

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It will follow that pipe along and go into the kitchen.

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You need to sort that out as well.

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There's still quite a lot of waste on the ground

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and a lot of rat droppings.

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I think they're the old droppings, but they need to be swept up

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so you can check if you've got any new droppings.

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You walk into premises, particularly food premises,

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and you can see evidence of rodent infestation.

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Why a business would want to carry on working in those conditions...

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I don't know whether it's a lack of education or just pure ignorance

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that, when you go in, you see things like that and people think that

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it's all right for them to carry on working in those conditions.

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-Oh, don't tell me. You're not using this fridge, are you?

-No.

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Can you get rid of...? There's a rat dropping in there, look.

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But it's not just the storeroom that's a cause for concern.

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Part of the problems faced by the previous owner

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stemmed from a blocked and overflowing sewage drain.

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We'll probably need to lift this drain again.

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Because the drain is on the takeaway's property,

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it's their responsibility to clear it.

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-This drain is still blocked.

-We've already cleared this once.

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But there's a blockage outside.

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There was some blockage outside, beyond that wall.

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There's something wrong outside there.

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I know that's not your problem, well, it's not your fault,

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we'll deal with the outside,

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but you need to make sure it's not coming from inside.

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That's OK with me.

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Drainage is really high priority.

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If you get a backing-up of your drains,

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it means you can't use your toilet, you can't use your sinks,

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wash-hand basins, so the business can't operate.

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I'll tell you, I'm very concerned about this.

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I know where the problem is,

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but it's within the curtilage of your premises, this food business.

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When you've got raw sewage like that, and you can smell that,

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within the curtilage of a food business, it's got to be of concern.

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When we come back on the next visit,

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we've got to see substantial improvement in this shed area,

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this area, jet cleaned,

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and then just reassess it.

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Right, OK.

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Monica and Khush give the business just 24 hours to clean up.

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If they fail to act, they'll be forced to close.

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We shut people down because we feel that there is an imminent risk.

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At the end of the day, we're protecting the public.

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If we allowed these premises to remain open,

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they would cause serious harm to individuals

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or a group of people by the imminent risk present at the premises.

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They're saying that the rats were coming

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through the sewage or something.

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Obviously, whenever you open a new business

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and something like this happens, it's not fair on me, is it?

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What have I got into? The previous owners didn't tell me about it.

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Coming up,

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with the future of this business hanging in the balance,

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the council is forced to call in reinforcements

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to try and solve its sewage problems.

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Will you be able to get that pipe out?

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We'll get it out one way or another.

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We all pay taxes that go towards

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the work of officers like Monica and Khush,

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and because we're footing the bill,

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we all have an opinion on what our local councils do,

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whether it's rates, rubbish or roads.

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There are always pot holes.

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You've got all these speed humps,

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they're never out gritting when they should be out.

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It always seems to be if it's been a bad night,

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it's always the night after they're out.

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They're never on time with the gritting.

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As a business owner, we need the car parks

0:19:370:19:40

and we need the prices to be reduced

0:19:400:19:42

because we depend on the customers coming to us

0:19:420:19:46

and if they can't come and park for a reasonable amount,

0:19:460:19:49

they're going to go somewhere else.

0:19:490:19:51

We've all tried to put this to the council,

0:19:510:19:53

but they don't want to know, really.

0:19:530:19:57

We don't have time to think really

0:20:000:20:03

about who does empty our bins,

0:20:030:20:05

about who does really educate our children,

0:20:050:20:08

who does really keep our streets well lit.

0:20:080:20:12

We do take them for granted.

0:20:140:20:16

But I think if people really did stop and think, then they'd realise

0:20:160:20:20

that it is our local council that keeps us safe.

0:20:200:20:24

Like them or loathe them,

0:20:300:20:33

our local councils are responsible

0:20:330:20:35

for many of our most essential services

0:20:350:20:38

and local council employees across the country

0:20:380:20:41

are committed to caring for us in life and even in death.

0:20:410:20:45

Working in one of the borough's eight cemeteries today

0:20:480:20:50

is council employee Geoff Dale

0:20:500:20:52

who has been digging graves for ten years.

0:20:520:20:55

When you tell them you're a grave-digger, they take a step back,

0:20:560:21:00

they're a bit surprised because it seems like an unusual job.

0:21:000:21:03

People don't expect you to say, "I'm a grave-digger."

0:21:040:21:08

But it's a good job. I like doing it.

0:21:080:21:11

Helping Geoff today is fellow digger Danny.

0:21:150:21:18

It's great. It's a bit of a party piece in a pub

0:21:180:21:21

when they ask what you do for a living, "I'm a grave-digger."

0:21:210:21:24

It's endless questions after that.

0:21:240:21:25

"That must be a dead-end job." They always say the same things.

0:21:250:21:29

"I bet that's depressing." It's not.

0:21:290:21:31

If you've got a good group of lads that you're working with,

0:21:310:21:34

it's a good laugh.

0:21:340:21:35

Straighten up on that corner there. On the wall, as well.

0:21:350:21:38

This is a normal size grave, this.

0:21:400:21:42

But we do get some really big sizes, like big people.

0:21:420:21:47

Some of the graves are twice the size of this.

0:21:470:21:50

I think it's... They are bigger people now, aren't they?

0:21:500:21:54

This is just a standard size, this one.

0:21:540:21:57

Today's task is fairly straightforward,

0:22:000:22:02

but both Geoff and Danny are well aware

0:22:020:22:04

that their occupation is not without its hazards.

0:22:040:22:07

I have seen a few things while I've been hand digging.

0:22:070:22:10

You know, boxes that have been rotted away.

0:22:100:22:13

You do come across the occasional bone.

0:22:140:22:17

But nothing too scary. Nothing I can't handle.

0:22:170:22:21

I've had one or two trips where I've sunk into the grave,

0:22:230:22:27

but not actually fell down the hole.

0:22:270:22:29

The worst thing what can happen is if a grave collapses.

0:22:300:22:34

That's a bad day, something like that happens.

0:22:340:22:37

But for Geoff and Danny, things are changing.

0:22:370:22:40

Like local councils nationwide, Tameside's budget is being slashed

0:22:400:22:44

and its staff numbers shrinking.

0:22:440:22:46

But the demand for a council's service doesn't cease,

0:22:460:22:49

so those employees that remain

0:22:490:22:51

are being called upon to undergo a broader range of duties.

0:22:510:22:55

For Geoff, that means a move into pest control

0:22:550:22:57

and joining up with Brian

0:22:570:22:59

on his campaign to reduce the pigeon population.

0:22:590:23:02

When I was first approached by pest control,

0:23:030:23:06

all I thought about was killing things, you know,

0:23:060:23:09

sort of killing animals and that.

0:23:090:23:12

That was one of me concerns.

0:23:120:23:14

Obviously, you work with poisons so you've got to be careful.

0:23:150:23:18

There's that aspect of it as well.

0:23:190:23:21

Right, Danny, just drop it in, mate.

0:23:220:23:24

As a relative newcomer to pest control,

0:23:260:23:28

Geoff is still coming to terms with exterminating pigeons.

0:23:280:23:32

The pigeons are just there, their little eyes open.

0:23:320:23:36

They're just still and they...

0:23:370:23:39

If somebody tried to do that to you, you'd be screaming. You'd fight back!

0:23:400:23:45

-They don't know what's going to happen, do they?

-They mustn't do.

0:23:450:23:49

They mustn't do.

0:23:490:23:51

Reckon they'd be easy to shoot?

0:23:540:23:56

You'd have to keep loading your... I don't know.

0:23:570:24:01

-You shoot it and it's instant.

-It's instant, yeah.

0:24:010:24:04

I think it's...

0:24:050:24:07

But it's not going to look very good carrying a gun around...

0:24:070:24:10

Cause an uproar.

0:24:100:24:12

-We'd better...

-Carry on.

-..carry on.

0:24:120:24:14

Only time will tell if soft-souled Geoff can hack it

0:24:160:24:19

as a hard-hearted pest control officer.

0:24:190:24:22

But Geoff doesn't have long to wait

0:24:230:24:25

before starting his pest control duties.

0:24:250:24:27

Today he's joined up with Brian

0:24:290:24:31

and together they're ready to tackle the borough's pigeon population

0:24:310:24:35

and the people that have been feeding them.

0:24:350:24:37

You got them signs, yeah?

0:24:370:24:39

And with help from the powers-that-be,

0:24:390:24:42

Brian's made a major breakthrough.

0:24:420:24:44

Today, it was a milestone.

0:24:440:24:46

I've been after these signs to put down to stop the birds,

0:24:460:24:49

"stop feeding the pigeons".

0:24:490:24:51

Unfortunately, it is a slow progress.

0:24:510:24:55

It's not like some jobs where you get an instant result,

0:24:550:24:58

unfortunately it's just a slow thing

0:24:580:24:59

and you've got to grit your teeth and do it.

0:24:590:25:01

You've got to just keep on going and persevere.

0:25:010:25:03

I'm going to brush all this up now, clear it all up

0:25:030:25:05

and, hopefully, these signs will work. Please God.

0:25:050:25:10

If Brian and Geoff can persuade shoppers to stop feeding the birds,

0:25:110:25:15

they can keep the area free of pigeon poo

0:25:150:25:17

and the rodents that dine on their leftovers.

0:25:170:25:21

-Loads, isn't there, Geoff?

-Loads.

0:25:210:25:23

But putting the plans into practice

0:25:260:25:28

isn't as easy as Brian first thought.

0:25:280:25:30

Time for trainee Geoff to show his worth.

0:25:310:25:34

-You got a pin to stick in?

-Yeah, I have.

0:25:370:25:40

Shouldn't be carrying that, an offensive weapon in the street.

0:25:400:25:43

It's not very sharp.

0:25:430:25:45

You were in the Boy Scouts. Look at him.

0:25:450:25:48

I tell you what, I've never iced a cake!

0:25:490:25:51

I'm getting a lot of pleasure out of this.

0:25:540:25:56

Sad, isn't it? Putting signs up, and you get pleasure at work.

0:25:580:26:01

Just hope they can read it.

0:26:020:26:04

I don't mean the pigeons, I mean the people.

0:26:050:26:08

Can't get any plainer than that, can you? "Please do not feed pigeons."

0:26:190:26:23

With the signs finally fixed, Brian

0:26:300:26:32

and Geoff face an anxious wait to see if their efforts will pay off.

0:26:320:26:36

For local council heroes the length and breadth of the county,

0:26:480:26:51

public service is a vocation

0:26:510:26:53

and that means off-duty is not necessarily off guard.

0:26:530:26:58

When I eat out, am I on duty?

0:26:580:27:00

Yes, I am. Erm, it drives my family bonkers.

0:27:000:27:04

I'm quite fussy about where I go to eat. I suppose, I see more things

0:27:060:27:10

than your normal person would.

0:27:100:27:12

Obviously when you go out for the night, you're always thinking,

0:27:140:27:17

you know, of how this might have been prepared or what's going on

0:27:170:27:22

behind the scenes but that goes with the job, really.

0:27:220:27:26

When I mention what I do for a living, erm, a lot of people

0:27:260:27:29

immediately start giving excuses for why their houses aren't as clean as

0:27:290:27:34

they'd like to be and I think they

0:27:340:27:36

expect me to have a pristine kitchen.

0:27:360:27:40

So, people are quite aware of their own hygiene standards, suddenly.

0:27:400:27:44

And they often start talking about food and things they've got at the

0:27:440:27:47

back of the fridge and stuff like that.

0:27:470:27:49

Back on the streets, Monica's back on duty

0:27:530:27:56

and en route to the takeaway she inspected 24 hours ago

0:27:560:27:59

but this is far from a social visit.

0:27:590:28:02

The premises have been plagued by a blocked sewage pipe

0:28:020:28:06

and rats who may have been enticed by a filthy outhouse.

0:28:060:28:09

There's a lot of rat droppings in here.

0:28:090:28:12

Monica demanded a drastic clean up and, if she doesn't see huge

0:28:120:28:16

improvements today, she has the power to shut the place down.

0:28:160:28:20

Our first duty is to protect public health.

0:28:210:28:25

If the conditions exist in the business, to show and to give

0:28:250:28:29

evidence that there's an imminent risk to health,

0:28:290:28:32

then we would follow the course of the law and...

0:28:320:28:34

first of all, get the business closed, really.

0:28:340:28:39

And with public safety at stake, there's no room for sentiment.

0:28:390:28:44

It's not something I enjoy, I suppose. It's a quite stressful

0:28:440:28:47

part of the job to have to

0:28:470:28:49

close somewhere down, it's a big decision to make.

0:28:490:28:51

But it's just part of my job, so I

0:28:510:28:53

base it on the evidence, on what I find...and that's it, really!

0:28:530:28:59

Hi, there. Hi, Mr Sadeer, thank you.

0:29:030:29:05

Oh, you've levelled the floor.

0:29:050:29:07

I've levelled the floor, put a socket there.

0:29:070:29:11

-I've been here this morning, since eight o'clock.

-Have you?

0:29:110:29:14

Nice sitting room, though, isn't it?

0:29:140:29:16

It's really great, I'm delighted!

0:29:160:29:18

-I've put a bulb light there.

-Fantastic, that's really great.

0:29:180:29:22

Yeah, thank you. So, how did you get on with the drain?

0:29:220:29:26

What was it like the last time you looked down there?

0:29:260:29:28

-It was pretty low.

-Was it? OK.

0:29:280:29:31

-We'll have a look now.

-Yeah.

0:29:310:29:33

Right, OK.

0:29:340:29:36

-OK, yeah.

-It's not rising, anyway.

-Yeah.

0:29:390:29:42

It is still going.

0:29:420:29:44

What would be good, as well, if it would be possible to pour some water

0:29:440:29:47

down that gulley, just like a basin.

0:29:470:29:49

-How many gallons?

-Just like a pan.

0:29:490:29:51

That's all gone through there, yeah?

0:29:530:29:55

Yeah, that looks like there's something happening there, yeah.

0:29:550:29:58

OK, great.

0:29:580:29:59

The drain is running a little more freely

0:29:590:30:01

but is still not completely clear.

0:30:010:30:03

Takeaway employee Mr Sadeer thinks the source of problem lies

0:30:050:30:08

with an open drain in an old outhouse, belonging to the

0:30:080:30:11

derelict property next door.

0:30:110:30:13

-It was all about that.

-Oh, right, that's very bad.

0:30:150:30:18

-That's open there.

-Yeah.

0:30:180:30:20

OK, I'll take a photograph.

0:30:220:30:24

The property being closed is next door,

0:30:240:30:26

it is affecting my business, as well.

0:30:260:30:29

This is a worry because this would

0:30:290:30:30

have been an outdoor toilet, years ago.

0:30:300:30:34

Which has a direct connection to the sewers below.

0:30:340:30:38

You can see it's not been capped properly,

0:30:380:30:42

so there's still a hole where the waste pipe would have been.

0:30:420:30:45

Erm, which is like a way for rats to get up.

0:30:450:30:50

I'll ask the owner of this business to take away all this rubble,

0:30:500:30:55

so that the drain here can be checked as well, to see if there's

0:30:550:30:58

cracks or the drain has collapsed.

0:30:580:31:01

The takeaway has done enough to avoid closure for now.

0:31:040:31:07

But the uncapped drain next door

0:31:080:31:11

still poses a threat to their business.

0:31:110:31:13

With its sewage still not flowing freely and the ominous potential

0:31:150:31:18

for rats to return, the victory for the takeaway will be short lived if

0:31:180:31:22

Monica can't find a way to unblock the street's decaying drains.

0:31:220:31:27

Back in the Market Square, the council's battle with

0:31:400:31:43

the local pigeon population has hit a snag.

0:31:430:31:46

Pest Control Officer Brian is desperate for residents to

0:31:470:31:50

stop feeding the birds.

0:31:500:31:53

Not only are they fouling the area's seats and monuments

0:31:530:31:56

but the excess food is encouraging rats.

0:31:560:32:00

Sadly, Brian's recently erected signs haven't attracted the right

0:32:000:32:04

type of attention.

0:32:040:32:06

I can't believe this!

0:32:070:32:09

It's disgusting what they've done.

0:32:110:32:13

You know, they moan about paying out money for things

0:32:130:32:18

and then they go and do this!

0:32:180:32:21

It's not as if you're like, it's scratched on or anything like that.

0:32:210:32:26

They've actually gone down deep into it.

0:32:260:32:29

It's just pathetic, I tell you!

0:32:310:32:33

Cleaning up the country's defaced buildings

0:32:340:32:37

and property costs us taxpayers over £1 billion a year.

0:32:370:32:42

Anyone caught putting graffiti on public property could face

0:32:420:32:45

ten years in prison or fines of £2,500.

0:32:450:32:50

Having had his signs spoiled by mindless vandals, Brian's even

0:32:520:32:55

more determined to stop the public

0:32:550:32:57

feeding the pigeons once and for all.

0:32:570:33:00

At the end of the day, if you're a bird lover or pigeon lover,

0:33:000:33:03

you wouldn't feed the pigeons here,

0:33:030:33:04

to attract them, so that we have to trap them.

0:33:040:33:08

They're feeding them, encouraging

0:33:080:33:11

them to land here, so I'll trap them and kill them.

0:33:110:33:14

Not my problem!

0:33:140:33:16

Nice clean sign.

0:33:170:33:19

Fortunately, Brian has some powerful allies.

0:33:190:33:22

In a bid to finally clip the pigeons' wings the council

0:33:220:33:26

has enlisted enforcement officer Robert Downey onto Brian's campaign.

0:33:260:33:30

Now, we've got someone there giving

0:33:300:33:32

them a fixed penalty, it'll soon stop it.

0:33:320:33:36

He has the power to dish out

0:33:360:33:38

£50 fines to anyone caught feeding the birds.

0:33:380:33:41

And right now, everyone's a suspect.

0:33:430:33:46

Most people are OK, they just didn't realise or it's habit.

0:33:460:33:49

They'll throw a chip, just put some

0:33:490:33:51

bread out and think they're just feeding the wildlife.

0:33:510:33:54

It's causing lots of mess and the

0:33:540:33:56

costs to keep it clean, it's astronomical at the moment.

0:33:560:34:00

You have to watch where you sit, cos

0:34:000:34:02

they're not frightened any more, are they?

0:34:020:34:05

It's a nice little area, we want to keep it nice for the shoppers.

0:34:050:34:08

I know!

0:34:080:34:09

-There's signs everywhere.

-They were all blacked off.

0:34:090:34:12

I know, we've just cleaned them.

0:34:120:34:14

Yeah, I don't think he'd even got around the corner there before

0:34:140:34:18

someone else was feeding them.

0:34:180:34:20

With support from Robert and at least one of Tameside's

0:34:200:34:22

residents, Brian's fight against his feathered foes -

0:34:220:34:26

and the less considerate locals that keep feeding them - goes on.

0:34:260:34:30

I mean, people have been moaning,

0:34:300:34:32

saying, "Is that all he's got to do is clean signs all day?"

0:34:320:34:34

But it's not the point. These have cost money and we're trying to clear

0:34:340:34:37

up the area, so people can sit here and have a bite to eat in their

0:34:370:34:41

dinner time and this is the thanks that you get!

0:34:410:34:44

It's just pointless, it really is!

0:34:440:34:47

Across town, Monica's colleague Khush has also enlisted some

0:34:550:34:58

specialist help.

0:34:580:35:00

In an effort to clear the drains behind the takeaway whose

0:35:010:35:04

sewage pipes were blocked and providing an open invitation

0:35:040:35:07

to rats, Khush has called in the utilities cavalry.

0:35:070:35:12

You can see around the chamber that

0:35:120:35:14

there's evidence of grease and fat around the chamber there.

0:35:140:35:18

We've checked the manhole outside

0:35:180:35:22

to see what the situation is inside.

0:35:220:35:24

Because the problem seems to lie in the shared sewage

0:35:240:35:27

pipes beyond the takeaway's boundary,

0:35:270:35:30

the responsibility to clear them lies with the utilities company.

0:35:300:35:34

But if the drains aren't cleared, Khush could still be forced to

0:35:340:35:37

close the takeaway and remove any risk to public health.

0:35:370:35:42

If you can show that there's an imminent risk of food being

0:35:420:35:45

contaminated, we have to take that

0:35:450:35:47

decision, we have to go down that route.

0:35:470:35:50

OK, so this section's all been a small amount of water.

0:35:500:35:55

Again, if you look at the top of the water there, we've got fat, oils...

0:35:550:36:01

-OK...

-We'll carry out some work now

0:36:010:36:03

to identify what's causing that blockage.

0:36:030:36:08

It's a dirty job, one Khush has first-hand experience of.

0:36:080:36:13

When I was a student, I used to go out with the drainage guys

0:36:150:36:19

and when they would actually jet a drain to

0:36:190:36:21

clear the blockage, they used to say to you, go and stand

0:36:210:36:25

at the next drain to see whether it's been cleared, and as they would

0:36:250:36:29

jet it, with a really high-powered jet, all the faeces and all the

0:36:290:36:36

foul water would actually, literally, just come up and spray you whilst

0:36:360:36:41

you were looking down the drain.

0:36:410:36:42

And that's their sort of initiation

0:36:420:36:44

to drainage work, and that happened quite often to a lot of students.

0:36:440:36:49

30 years on, Khush has learned to love the job that takes him

0:36:510:36:54

to all the best places.

0:36:540:36:56

We certainly come across, you know, the whole range of work.

0:36:570:37:01

And that's dealing with filthy and verminous houses

0:37:010:37:04

to, you know, to dirty kitchens.

0:37:040:37:08

In terms of glamorous, I don't think, you know, you could describe the job

0:37:080:37:13

as glamorous, really, in that respect.

0:37:130:37:16

While Khush observes from a safe distance today,

0:37:180:37:21

the utility guys hit a problem.

0:37:210:37:23

Looks like I may need a larger unit to come out.

0:37:250:37:29

There's some quite large pieces of debris

0:37:290:37:32

which you'd struggle to get up this smaller type of tube.

0:37:320:37:37

-Right.

-If we get a bigger unit

0:37:370:37:39

we've a bigger capacity and a larger tube to take that out.

0:37:390:37:42

Coming up:

0:37:430:37:45

Khush's last-ditch attempt to clear the drains

0:37:450:37:49

hits a snag.

0:37:490:37:51

Are you going to be able to get that pipe out?

0:37:510:37:53

Um, we won't get it with that

0:37:530:37:54

but we'll get it out one way or another.

0:37:540:37:56

Khush and his colleagues nationwide are battling to do

0:38:050:38:08

their best for the residents they serve,

0:38:080:38:10

but council officers across the land don't always get the best press.

0:38:100:38:14

It's just unfortunate sometimes

0:38:150:38:16

that we're portrayed in the media as officials

0:38:160:38:19

who just go round with clipboards and have these big checklists,

0:38:190:38:22

and we go through these checklists, but that's not the case.

0:38:220:38:26

There's a perception that if council workers are digging a hole -

0:38:260:38:29

three watching and one working.

0:38:290:38:32

I mean that's something

0:38:320:38:34

That's something that harks back to the 1950s, I would have thought.

0:38:340:38:37

I've been up to my waist in sewage

0:38:370:38:41

that had been coming into people's property and we've been trying to

0:38:410:38:45

get a drain unblocked

0:38:450:38:47

so that the water levels don't rise.

0:38:470:38:50

So you have to have a very strong stomach in this job, yes.

0:38:500:38:55

Somebody's quite welcome to spend a week in my shoes to tell me

0:38:550:38:58

that I'm a bone-idle, lazy council worker.

0:38:580:39:00

By all means feel free to come and I think they'll have

0:39:000:39:04

a different opinion at the end of the seven days.

0:39:040:39:07

Back on site, Khush's battle to clear fat,

0:39:180:39:21

grease and bricks from the collapsed drains is gathering momentum.

0:39:210:39:25

Having failed to clear the underground chambers with

0:39:270:39:30

their standard tanker, the utilities company has brought in the big guns.

0:39:300:39:34

Finally, with this 3,000-litre tanker,

0:39:370:39:40

the debris lodged in the drain can begin to be cleared.

0:39:400:39:44

That's the extent of the problem,

0:39:440:39:46

where you've got whole bricks that have fallen into the chamber

0:39:460:39:50

and that are part of the blockage.

0:39:500:39:54

And you can see the number of bricks that are being retrieved.

0:39:540:39:58

And these have fallen in from the chamber over a period of time.

0:39:580:40:03

Again I think it just shows the extent,

0:40:030:40:06

or the extent of the problem that we have here.

0:40:060:40:09

Not necessarily all the other foods, and the fats

0:40:090:40:13

and the oils - it's the age of the chamber itself

0:40:130:40:17

that's disintegrating.

0:40:170:40:19

But even 21st-century super tankers

0:40:220:40:24

can get stumped by Victorian plumbing.

0:40:240:40:26

So that's actually dropped off, hasn't it, from the connection there?

0:40:260:40:31

That pipework's just dropped off from the connection.

0:40:310:40:34

That's supposed to go straight down and then straight into the invert.

0:40:340:40:37

-Will you be able to get that pipe out?

-Yeah.

0:40:370:40:40

Yeah? Using this?

0:40:400:40:42

Um, I don't think we'll get it with that

0:40:420:40:44

but we'll it out one way or another.

0:40:440:40:46

But ultimately there's no real substitute

0:40:460:40:49

for some rope and old-fashioned, hands-on expertise.

0:40:490:40:52

Get the old lasso out here.

0:40:520:40:53

After weeks of investigation

0:40:590:41:00

and some hard graft, the chambers are finally cleared

0:41:000:41:04

but now it's down to the takeaway to ensure that their waste

0:41:040:41:07

doesn't affect the shared sewage network and block the drains again.

0:41:070:41:11

I mean, we're going to follow this up now

0:41:110:41:14

with the restaurant owner.

0:41:140:41:16

Advising him really to install a grease trap

0:41:160:41:20

so that none of the oils and the fats go directly into the drain.

0:41:200:41:24

And when the grease trap is installed,

0:41:240:41:28

that can be emptied on a regular basis.

0:41:280:41:31

It's all about education, really.

0:41:310:41:33

For now, the takeaway can continue to operate without

0:41:350:41:38

the threat of rats returning or sewage contaminating their kitchen.

0:41:380:41:42

I didn't like it when the first problem occurred

0:41:420:41:45

about the sewage

0:41:450:41:47

and it's not my fault. But at the moment I'm happy

0:41:470:41:51

that everything has been sorted out

0:41:510:41:53

because it's only been three months I'm in this business

0:41:530:41:57

so things are running smoothly now.

0:41:570:41:59

It's a very good result.

0:42:020:42:03

In terms of dealing with the business,

0:42:030:42:05

our main aim was to make sure

0:42:050:42:07

that there was no risk of contamination from

0:42:070:42:10

any drainage work,

0:42:100:42:12

or any drainage problems affecting the food business.

0:42:120:42:15

So that means chicken kebabs all round!

0:42:150:42:17

Once again, the country's

0:42:200:42:22

dedicated council officers have been hard at work.

0:42:220:42:25

These local heroes have been busy fighting fires.

0:42:270:42:30

Stuff like tyres and asbestos...

0:42:300:42:32

there's no way you can burn that.

0:42:320:42:34

Ridding the region of rats and seeping sewage.

0:42:340:42:37

This drain is so blocked.

0:42:370:42:39

I've already cleared this once.

0:42:390:42:42

And the battle to reduce the pigeon population

0:42:420:42:44

and educate those that feed them goes on.

0:42:440:42:47

I'll win this war against the pigeons. Not a problem.

0:42:470:42:51

It's all in a day's work when we call the council.

0:42:510:42:55

The satisfaction of the job is really to help people

0:42:550:43:00

and to protect the people of Tameside,

0:43:000:43:03

and particularly the old and the vulnerable.

0:43:030:43:06

Council officers heroically fight a fire that threatens the health of their residents, pursue a personal battle against the pigeon population and tackle a takeaway that's in danger of being overrun by rats and raw sewage.


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