Rats, Traps, Bugs and Cutbacks Panorama


Rats, Traps, Bugs and Cutbacks

Budget cuts mean some councils are disbanding pest control teams and others are charging for previously free services. Will this lead to more pests and the diseases they carry?


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Transcript


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Stoo Rats. That's it, under the rubbish, under the blue bin,

:00:50.:00:55.

there's a rat. Cockroaches. That's actually in the

:00:55.:01:00.

door lock in the frame. They are firmly settled in there. Bedbugs.

:01:00.:01:09.

The stuff of night mares. Oh God! All this black stuff is bedbug

:01:09.:01:14.

dropings. There's a nice big adult. These will turn up in the poshest

:01:14.:01:20.

hotels and houses. The pest controllers on the front line,

:01:20.:01:25.

trying them to stop invading our homes. Happy days, cockroach again.

:01:25.:01:30.

As budget cuts bite and councils cut back on pest control... Do you

:01:30.:01:35.

fear your job is at risk? Yeah but there's plenty of pests out there.

:01:35.:01:40.

We go undercover to test how easy it is to become a pest controller

:01:40.:01:46.

and get hold of dangerous chemicals. Whoever sells there, where we've

:01:46.:01:49.

just been, do not understand the consequences of what this can do.

:01:49.:01:55.

We meet the pests fighting back. The lowest point was when I found a

:01:55.:01:59.

family of rats living in the poison bag, living there happily. We ask,

:01:59.:02:06.

are we in danger of losing the war? We've got the world's most

:02:06.:02:13.

resistant rat in this part of the world, and increasingly that

:02:13.:02:23.
:02:23.:02:25.

No-one knows how many rats there are in the UK. It could be anything

:02:25.:02:32.

from 6-20 million. It's oven said we're never more than ten feet away

:02:32.:02:42.
:02:42.:02:46.

from one. But this man, Peter Roy True. What counts as a rat

:02:46.:02:52.

infestation. On the floor, you get a lot of these down here, which are

:02:52.:02:56.

rat dropings. These things? That's dropping, they're fresh as well

:02:56.:02:59.

because they're still skwishy. Peter is a pest controller with

:02:59.:03:05.

Southwark Council in south London. Today he has rats in his sights.

:03:05.:03:10.

When I open the chamber last week, about 10-15 rats come running out

:03:10.:03:16.

at me so. You might see a couple, out of the bin chamber. No sign of

:03:16.:03:24.

any rats so far. Just a corpse. Normally, they're decome posed in

:03:24.:03:29.

about five days. When the rat is eaten the poison, its body because

:03:29.:03:34.

boys news, so you couldn't chuck it in a normal bin. You're going to

:03:34.:03:40.

take that with you now? Yeah. I'll get a cab I think. Yeah. I've

:03:40.:03:47.

a lovely van I have. But it isn't long before a live rat makes a

:03:47.:03:54.

break for freedom. Under the rubbish, there's a rat. It didn't

:03:54.:04:04.
:04:04.:04:13.

So, to get a better look we set up It wasn't long before we saw that

:04:13.:04:23.
:04:23.:04:26.

this block of flats has a serious problem. Rats don't like the

:04:26.:04:31.

daylight, but here there were so many of them, they were happily out

:04:31.:04:40.

searching for food. It's driving the residents to despair. Saw them

:04:40.:04:46.

up the drain, I thought it is kittens, it is awful. It is

:04:46.:04:52.

absolutely awful. To me, they're dirty things. And they multiply so

:04:52.:04:57.

quickly. Is it embarrassing? It is embarrassing, so long as you don't

:04:57.:05:01.

see them you're safe. Once you see them coming, it is like invasion.

:05:01.:05:09.

It is absolutely vile. Peter is going to try and kill the rats

:05:10.:05:17.

using poison. Left unchecked, they can cause real harm. Including in

:05:17.:05:22.

extreme cases liver and kidney infections. We're talking about

:05:22.:05:27.

illnesses like, with rat infestations, wiels disease, a

:05:27.:05:33.

particularly nasty illness. The transfer of disease, through rats

:05:33.:05:37.

coming through sewers and into people's houses. It is a broken

:05:37.:05:40.

drain, that will need to be repaired that allowed the rats to

:05:40.:05:44.

come up from the sewers in Southwark. In the meantime Peter

:05:44.:05:49.

will continue to put poison down. Last year, council pest controllers

:05:49.:05:55.

in the UK made nearly 300,000 rat- related visits to people's homes,

:05:55.:05:57.

according to the British pest control association. While that

:05:57.:06:02.

helped, manage their impact on us, no-one really knows what it is

:06:02.:06:08.

doing to the overall rat population. Councils deal with all sorts of

:06:08.:06:15.

other pests. And no-one is immune. In Stevenage, council pest

:06:15.:06:20.

controller, Chris Woodard is getting reacquainted with an old

:06:20.:06:29.

friend. The bedbug. You do not want these feeding on you at night.

:06:30.:06:34.

but eradicated in British homes after the Second World War, they're

:06:34.:06:40.

back. Thanks to our world travel and it is a easily spread. It will

:06:41.:06:49.

have to be washed. Oh God. All this black stuff. That's bedbug dropings,

:06:49.:06:55.

and there's a nice big adult there. This bits moving here. Bedbugs like

:06:55.:06:59.

nothing better than waiting until you fall asleep and then feasting

:06:59.:07:05.

on your blood. This is no relationship to hygiene or anything.

:07:05.:07:10.

Nothing to do this at all. These will turn up in the poshest houses

:07:10.:07:17.

and hotels. The same with all the pests, rats, mice, cockroaches.

:07:17.:07:23.

Back in Southwark, Peter's turning his attention to another pest.

:07:23.:07:28.

Cockroaches in this one, we have avenue had reports on this one.

:07:28.:07:32.

Southwark looks after more council properties than any other borough

:07:32.:07:39.

in the capital. Council pest controllers made almost 20,000

:07:39.:07:45.

cockroach-related visits last year. This flat has such a bad pest

:07:45.:07:52.

problem that the person who lives here has had to move out. That one

:07:52.:07:58.

up on the doors, they're coming out to say hello now. One there, one

:07:58.:08:03.

there. When you consider one egg can up to 38 cockroaches in it, it

:08:03.:08:08.

can be out of control very fast. Southwark's 24 pest controllers

:08:08.:08:15.

make up the biggest team in the country. Last year, they made

:08:15.:08:25.
:08:25.:08:25.

60,000 visits. What are they? are even more bedbugs here, they're

:08:25.:08:29.

live and come back to. Council tenants here in Southwark, get the

:08:29.:08:34.

service free. Peter's been dealing with outbreaks like these for six

:08:34.:08:38.

years. How do you keep positive, when this is your Dail routine?

:08:38.:08:44.

know I can get rid of them and make it better, so it is like that,

:08:44.:08:50.

these won't stay like this once I finish with it. You get a sense of

:08:50.:08:55.

satisfaction? Yeah, it is something I enjoyed in my working life. If

:08:55.:09:00.

you made someone happy in your day's work, you did good no matter

:09:00.:09:07.

what you get paid. Cockroach again. They're attracted to you. They love

:09:07.:09:10.

me. For several years councils have been reducing their pest control

:09:11.:09:15.

teams in order to save money. For now, Southwark is continuing to

:09:15.:09:20.

fund its pest control service. But since the Government's

:09:20.:09:24.

austerity drive the rate which they've been cut by councils has

:09:24.:09:29.

increased. To keep theirs some felt forced to introduce charges, like

:09:29.:09:37.

here in Stevenage, where they brought in a �47 fee last year.

:09:37.:09:41.

When the council introduced charges, what impact did that have? Dropped

:09:41.:09:47.

by 50% on the public health stuff, yeah. Why do you reckon that is.

:09:47.:09:51.

think the people just felt, I'll try and deal with it ourselves, and

:09:51.:09:59.

we'll go out and buy poison for a few pounds and try to deal with it

:09:59.:10:09.
:10:09.:10:09.

themselves. You've seen rats up here then less? I've noticed them

:10:09.:10:14.

for two or three months x Today, Chris has come to help Les Benford,

:10:14.:10:20.

he's fighting a rat problem, and at the moment he's losing. What have

:10:20.:10:25.

you done to control them, have you put down poison? I virtually,

:10:25.:10:30.

filled the holes in with bricks and stones, hoping it would deter them,

:10:30.:10:34.

but it hasn't workeded. Face with the having to pay, many people try

:10:34.:10:39.

to get rid of pests themselves. But as less found out, it is not as

:10:39.:10:45.

easy as you might think. And using poisons can be dangerous. Most

:10:45.:10:52.

people I see put it down, put it down in a tollly inappropriate way,

:10:52.:11:00.

poisoning wildlife and doing themselves some harm. The �47

:11:00.:11:05.

charge here in Stevenage gets you as many visits as you need.

:11:05.:11:11.

Callouts have increased this year. But Chris is not taking his job for

:11:11.:11:17.

Four to two. Do you fear your job is at risk. Of course, who wouldn't

:11:17.:11:22.

in this day and age, in the way the public sector and private sector,

:11:22.:11:27.

jobs have been lost. Of course it is a risk. But they're still loads

:11:27.:11:32.

of pests out there. Cutbacks like those are worrying environmental

:11:32.:11:36.

health experts. Resources to actually deal with the problem,

:11:36.:11:41.

around the country, are diminishing. And so, I believe, that the problem

:11:41.:11:48.

will get worse. Populations will increase. Damage, and the potential,

:11:48.:11:57.

loss of well being, will be increased as well. Some councils

:11:57.:12:01.

are going much further, than just charging for a service which had

:12:01.:12:05.

been once been free. They're disbanding their teams altogether,

:12:06.:12:11.

in the last two years, 29 councils have completely shut down their

:12:11.:12:21.
:12:21.:12:24.

service. Cornwall, council here got rid of the pest control service

:12:24.:12:29.

last year, as one family found out toity cost. When did you realise

:12:30.:12:34.

you had a rat problem, rather than the odd rat here and there? When I

:12:34.:12:38.

saw three or four of them scurrying on the patio, I thought, actually

:12:38.:12:44.

this is getting silly and starting to smell out here of rat pee.

:12:44.:12:48.

year-old Miriam and Moses love playing in the garden. Their mum,

:12:48.:12:54.

Cheryl who is tpwhot so keen because of the last 18 months

:12:54.:12:58.

they've had rats. We have to risk assess our garden to make sure

:12:58.:13:04.

there's no dead rats in the traps or doesn't smell of rat pee. I wipe

:13:04.:13:09.

the table, and wipe down the slide with spray disinfectant, because I

:13:09.:13:14.

don't know where the rats have been, have they been on my table, I don't

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know. No longer able to call on the council, they considered hiring a

:13:23.:13:26.

private firm. We were quoted �100 to look at the ground and see what

:13:26.:13:30.

they wanted to do. And then, for each time they come back, it would

:13:30.:13:35.

be more money. On the money that my husband and myself both bring in,

:13:35.:13:40.

because they're registered disabled, we don't have that much money to

:13:40.:13:45.

start w we live hand to mouth. Because they couldn't afford the

:13:45.:13:49.

private company, they bought traps and managed to kill a few rats

:13:50.:13:53.

themselves. But that's not got rid of them. Councils have to keep

:13:53.:13:57.

their land free of rats and mice, and in extreme circumstances, they

:13:57.:14:04.

can force you to do the same. But they aren't legally obliged to

:14:04.:14:14.
:14:14.:14:15.

If you can afford it, go through a professional. If you can't. You say

:14:15.:14:19.

those who can, go through a professional, if they can't? It is

:14:19.:14:23.

the grey area, that the cuts affect somebody, I would still expect my

:14:23.:14:28.

staff to give advice. I don't like this, it and I wouldn't expect the

:14:28.:14:34.

public to like T but I can only deliver what I can afford.

:14:34.:14:41.

those who can afford to shop around, there are 47 firms in Cornwall and

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hundreds across Britain. Neil Parker works for one of them.

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it is Cleankill. Business is good for his London-based firm. Up 9% on

:14:56.:15:00.

last year. There are at the males amongst that

:15:00.:15:04.

lot. This job is part of a new contract

:15:04.:15:08.

with a housing association. Neil believes the tenant may have

:15:08.:15:18.

been living like this for sometime. There's a harbourage and

:15:18.:15:22.

conservation of cockroaches, that's in a door lock in the frame. If you

:15:22.:15:31.

can see them, they are, firmly settled in there. Cockroaches can

:15:31.:15:38.

contaminate food and trigger allergies and asthma attacks.

:15:38.:15:47.

is the gentleman's bedroom. You see the markings on the mattress,

:15:47.:15:57.
:15:57.:16:00.

There's a bedbug. So not only has he a German cockroach infestation,

:16:00.:16:06.

he has bedbugs as well. He's living with the insects, so when he's

:16:06.:16:10.

sleeping, they're feeding and when he's awake, they're sleeping. It is

:16:10.:16:15.

a relationship, it is a vicious circle in the end. While some firms

:16:15.:16:19.

can compete with councils on cost, others can't. One leading private

:16:19.:16:23.

contractor is confident companies can pick up some of the slack

:16:23.:16:30.

Council cutbacks. There's nothing sacred about a pest cell team, for

:16:30.:16:35.

a number of years now, we have had an erosion, and the sky's not

:16:35.:16:39.

fallen out. There's not a sudden outbreak of pestness the locations

:16:39.:16:43.

that have had private contractors. There's no evidence using a private

:16:43.:16:47.

contractors will be inferior. so, their services may be out of

:16:47.:16:52.

reach for some of the most vulnerable. Local authorities are,

:16:52.:16:57.

the safety net for society. And many people who can't afford pest

:16:57.:17:04.

control need to find some sort of support. They're oven the ones that

:17:04.:17:10.

have the - often the ones that have the most serious problems near and

:17:10.:17:17.

where they live. There were 57 complaints about pest control

:17:17.:17:21.

companies in the last flee months and experts worry some are driven

:17:21.:17:31.
:17:31.:17:36.

to the cheapest end of the market. To cowboys. Like me. You don't need

:17:36.:17:40.

any qualifications or license to become a pest controller. So I set

:17:40.:17:48.

up shop in an area that's done away with the council-run pest control

:17:48.:17:54.

teams Some phone numbers in a newsagent's window, and ads in

:17:54.:18:04.
:18:04.:18:04.

local papers, and I'm almost set to g - go. Within the week the phone

:18:04.:18:08.

was reining. Unsuspected customers expecting a cheap and effective

:18:08.:18:13.

service, lucky for them, I passed on a pest controller, qualified to

:18:13.:18:18.

deal with the problems. In a matter of days, I proved how easy it is to

:18:18.:18:23.

set up in the pest control business. There's low barriers to entering in

:18:23.:18:28.

pest control. My concern is those people untrained and unlpsed and

:18:28.:18:33.

unregulated and uninsured, are going in people's houses and could

:18:33.:18:37.

potentially cause serious problems around health issues, up to and

:18:37.:18:42.

including something that could be lethal. I got the van, I know I can

:18:42.:18:47.

get the customers. Now, I'm going in search of the chemicals the pest

:18:47.:18:51.

controllers use. Some of them are incredibly dangerous. And as a

:18:51.:19:01.

cowboy, I shouldn't be able to get hold of them. The most dangerous on

:19:01.:19:11.

sale is in the same class as arsenic and strychnine. It is

:19:11.:19:15.

called aluminium phosphide. It is illegal to sell it to someone

:19:15.:19:21.

untrained like me. It is used to gas rats. We went under cover to

:19:21.:19:28.

test how well the law is being upheld. They should ask to see my

:19:28.:19:34.

ID and proof I know how to use this stuff safely. I visited eight shops

:19:34.:19:44.
:19:44.:20:00.

Here I was turned away. It was the But at this shop it was a different

:20:00.:20:10.
:20:10.:20:31.

Here the salesman asked me lots of I can't show a license, because I

:20:31.:20:39.

don't have one. He should see some proof I know what I'm doing. But

:20:39.:20:44.

after giving a false name and address, he sells it to me anyway.

:20:44.:20:54.
:20:54.:20:57.

Aluminium phosphide is so dangerous, we're not allowed to transport it,

:20:57.:21:01.

so we have a pest controller who is qualified to carry it on hand to

:21:01.:21:07.

take it off us. This is seriously dangerous stuff. Very, very

:21:07.:21:13.

worrying. This stuff as you can see, it explains everything on here, it

:21:13.:21:17.

is incredibly dangerous to the environment, it's been known in the

:21:17.:21:20.

past to actually kill pest controllers who have not handled it

:21:20.:21:30.
:21:30.:21:39.

in the long way. Locked out of Here, fewer questions. Again I

:21:39.:21:49.
:21:49.:21:55.

She too, appears to be breaking the law. In total, we bought this

:21:55.:22:01.

poison from three of the eight shops we visited. I can't believe

:22:01.:22:06.

it. I can't believe it. These people clearly don't realise, what

:22:06.:22:12.

this stuff is. They, whoever sells this, where we've just been, do not

:22:12.:22:17.

understand the consequences of what this can do. Just one onity own,

:22:17.:22:24.

never mind two. It is crazy. Untrained, unlicenseed and

:22:24.:22:27.

unqualified. There's absolutely no way, that someone like me, should

:22:27.:22:32.

be getting hold of products as dangerous as this. After visiting a

:22:32.:22:38.

few shops and answering very few questions, here we are. Tighter

:22:38.:22:46.

regulations will be up and running by the end of next year, to

:22:46.:22:53.

preprevent the unlawful selling of product like these. They want to

:22:53.:22:59.

Of people's homes. The pest control industry is an important one.

:22:59.:23:03.

Because pest controllers should be our front line of defence against

:23:03.:23:09.

the bugs and residents that can have a serious impact on public

:23:09.:23:17.

health. But what happens when the pests fight back? You've always had

:23:17.:23:22.

rats here. Always had rats here, ever since I've been here and

:23:22.:23:28.

before. In the countryside, rats come with the territory. But two

:23:28.:23:34.

years ago, thousands of them nearly cost farmer David Cripps his

:23:34.:23:38.

livilihood in West Berkshire. How bad it was, at its worst, the rat

:23:38.:23:41.

problem. There wouldn't have been a building on the farm we wouldn't

:23:41.:23:48.

have seen a rat in. At that time. We were buying poison, at a fast

:23:48.:23:53.

rate of knots, and we just weren't killing the rats. What he didn't

:23:53.:23:59.

know then was his farm was in the middle of an area where rats had

:23:59.:24:03.

become resistant to the only poisons he was allowed to use.

:24:03.:24:08.

lowest point was when I found the family of rats living in the poison

:24:08.:24:12.

bag, and living there quite happily. They were eating a feeding it, and

:24:12.:24:19.

it was just like giving them Kandy, sweets. The problem began because

:24:19.:24:24.

of the genetic mutation in a smul number of rats which made them

:24:24.:24:28.

resistant to poisons, so their population grew. We got the world's

:24:28.:24:35.

most resistant rat in this part of the world. And inceasingly that

:24:35.:24:42.

resistance is spreading. Stranger rat reaistance has been found in

:24:42.:24:48.

areas from Kent to Scotland there. Are three stronger poisons he could

:24:48.:24:55.

use, but he's banned from putting them outdoors, because of the risk

:24:55.:25:00.

they poise to wildlife like this Red Kite. The problem is the

:25:00.:25:04.

resistant rat spread all of the country, and we're in a situation

:25:05.:25:08.

where you can use the three compounds at the present time

:25:08.:25:12.

you're not allowed to use. Although their use is controversial, the

:25:12.:25:14.

Health and Safety Executive is launching a consultation, about

:25:14.:25:24.
:25:24.:25:33.

allowing the use of the stronger In the meantime, David's had to

:25:33.:25:38.

resort to extreme tactics with his war with his rats. This is a

:25:38.:25:44.

standard, air, 22 rifle, so it is running on 12 roupd and this is a

:25:44.:25:52.

night scope, which is ideal for the job. He's hireed local pest

:25:53.:25:59.

controllers, Stephen and Graham to shoot them. It's worst, team of

:25:59.:26:05.

three guns and the first night it was over 300 we shot. In one night?

:26:05.:26:09.

In one night. Did that make a dent in the population here? Not for the

:26:09.:26:15.

first week. Nothing at all. It's taken a long time to get to where

:26:15.:26:23.

we are now. But with rats the battle is never over. Stephen and

:26:23.:26:33.
:26:33.:26:48.

Graham regularly bring their rifles So, resistant rats, rogue pest

:26:48.:26:52.

controllers and council cutbacks, they could all pose a serious risk

:26:52.:26:57.

to public health according to some experts. And they want a battle

:26:57.:27:03.

plan. They are a number of Government departments that have an

:27:03.:27:08.

interest in public health. Particularly with regard to pest

:27:08.:27:12.

control. The question is are they being co-ordinated in any shape or

:27:12.:27:18.

form. My view is no they're not. We don't know what the numbers are. We

:27:18.:27:22.

don't know whether or not we have the same populations of rodents now

:27:22.:27:28.

as we did 20 years ago. That data isn't available. Why not? We ought

:27:28.:27:36.

to be selecting it. - collecting it. We tried to find out who is taking

:27:36.:27:42.

the lead on pest control and public health. The Department of Health

:27:42.:27:45.

said it wasn't something for them. So we went to the Health Protection

:27:45.:27:49.

Agency, who passed us on. To here, the department for the environment,

:27:49.:27:53.

food and rural affairs, who told us that pest control wasn't really

:27:53.:27:57.

their problem. So they, like the Department of Health, sent us here,

:27:57.:28:00.

to the department for communities and local government. They didn't

:28:00.:28:04.

seem to want to take the lead either. They said, pest control is

:28:05.:28:11.

a matter for local councils. So, with no-one seemingly at the helm,

:28:11.:28:16.

and at a time of cutbacks, it is feared we may have to live with

:28:16.:28:20.

more pestness the future. If the cats can't do anything about it,

:28:20.:28:24.

and we can't afford it, we have to live with it, and bait our traps

:28:24.:28:29.

every night and remove the rats every morning As far as public

:28:29.:28:32.

health pests go, they would be out of control t would take

:28:32.:28:37.

considerable time and that's the problem of course. None of this is

:28:37.:28:41.

measureable quickly, it is going to be a long-term approach. If

:28:41.:28:46.

something will happen, it will be over, three, five, perhaps ten

:28:46.:28:51.

years. If you hadn't got the rat problem under control, what impact

:28:51.:28:55.

would it have had on your business? I wouldn't be in business t would

:28:55.:28:58.

have taken the business, because they would have won. Without a

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Rats, bedbugs, cockroaches: pests we may all have to learn to live with more in the future, according to environmental health experts. Budget cuts mean some councils are disbanding their pest control teams while others are now charging for services which had been free. Will this lead to more pests and the diseases they carry?

Panorama goes bug busting with pest controllers, and tests how easy it can be to get into the pest control business.


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