Rat-catcher fee plan is dropped

PLANS to start charging for ridding homes of rats were dropped from High Peak’s budget plans after concerns over public health were raised.

All members of High Peak Borough Council were widely in agreement with the 2011/2012 budget which will see a zero per cent increase in Council Tax.

Councillor Emily Thrane, along with other councillors, paid tribute to the efforts of all staff for their help drawing up the budget and financial plans.

She said: “Given the need to achieve the most significant expenditure savings for a generation, there is no doubt the next three years are going to be very tough – but - looking back at our previous three budgets, we have faced and overcome challenging times before.”

“When it is well-led and well-managed, local government at its best is responsive, resourceful and resilient. In this budget and future plans High Peak is clearly demonstrating those qualities.

One of the main areas of opposition was the proposal to introduce a £10 charge for dealing with rats.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Caitlin Bisknell said: “Given that this council has effectively outsourced housing, and that leisure services, ICT, waste collection and recycling are run already by outside contractors – this council is now left with little room to manoeuvre.”

Opposing the introduction of the charge she said “Only last month the Charted Institute of Environmental Health said it was seriously concerned that councils were introducing charges for controlling rats and argued that public health arguments should prevail over financial considerations. £6,000 a year seems to me a small price to pay for public health.”

Cllr Vicky Mann said: “Rats aren’t funny. Some people will pay, some won’t and it makes it hard for everybody else.”

Council leader Tony Ashton said at earlier meetings no amendments or proposal put forward by the labour group unlike the Liberal Democrats who had expressed concerns.

“We didn’t allay all their concerns but we did address some of them,” he said.

“However having taken on board what has been said as a gesture I will move further amendment that the charge for rats is withdrawn.”

• Conservative councillors said they had been waiting four years for an alternative budget from Labour.

Cllr Anthony McKeown said the Labour group had not taken up valuable officer time drawing up an alternative budget. “We are few in numbers and would not get passed.”

He said it was right amendments and suggestions were brought before the council.