The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change presented a report providing Cabinet with the background, current position and options to determine the preferred way forward in terms of a pest control service following the previous Cabinet report on 19th January 2021 when it was agreed to explore further alternative options. Cabinet also approved the suspension of the relevant parts of the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules to enter into a short term contract with the current pest control service provider Rentokil whilst further options were being explored. She reported that Rentokil had agreed to extend the current contract until October 2021, they also stated that this was the maximum extension they would agree to under the terms of the current contract.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change explained that in January 2021, Cabinet were presented with three options however the decision taken by Cabinet was to extend the current contract while further options were explored. The ‘Shaping Bridgend’s Future’ 2019 public consultation sought to obtain views on specific budget reduction proposals across Council directorates and included a question to obtain residents’ views on a pest control service. 58% of respondents stated that they were of the view that the Council was not best placed to provide a pest control service. Respondents were asked a supplementary question on whether the council should consider charging for these services and only 16% of respondents to this question stated that the service should continue to be free to residents.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change referred to the requirement for the contractor to respond to all domestic pest control treatment requests within 3 working days. This was not ideal as it required the resident to wait in for the visit as no day or time could be agreed in advance. Due to this, there was a high level of abortive callouts made as a result of residents not being at the property when the pest control technician arrived This was important for a new contract in terms of specification. Indications from the market were that the future contract cost was likely to increase.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change explained that the Operational Manager for Customer Services liaised with the other 21 Welsh local authorities to identify what domestic pest control service was offered to their residents. From the 21 authorities that were contacted, apart from two further options that were identified in Bridgend, no authority provided any further alternative options as most either provide a full chargeable service, or did not provide a service at all. The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change outlined the five options for consideration.
The Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations thanked the officers for their work and said that she would prefer an option that was free. Of the 5 options, 2 contained charging and she would prefer those 2 not to be taken forward as there should be a free pest control service. The consultation was pre pandemic and they could not rely on the outcome. There had been a significant increase in the number of referrals during the pandemic and if residents were asked the same question again, she believed they would get a very different response. This was also evidenced from her own case work and discussions with other members. The Cabinet Member suggested that the authority continue with a free service and explore either option 3, 4 or 5.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change replied that if they were to go with option 3, they would need to consult. They were very tight with regard to timescales and this consultation would take 3 months. Options 4 and 5 did not require consultation. The Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations confirmed she would be happy to move forward with options 4 or 5.
The Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help agreed with the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations and preferred options 4 or 5. She did not feel that an external provider was incentivised enough to tackle and solve the problem. The problems in the community were not being tackled and that required a joined up approach connected with enforcement and environmental health. Who was responsible for the rat population? A number of issues needed to be considered in a more strategic way and only the authority could do that. A long term solution and not a temporary fix was required and it had to be free.
The Deputy Leader stated that rats were not appropriate in any environment whether rural or urban. With regard to the public consultation, 59% believed the Council were not best placed to provide the service. He asked if those consulted were aware that there was a third party provider and this was an indication that they were not happy with the service. Also there was an indication that less than 1 in 5 would be happy to pay. He recalled that when this went to overview and scrutiny, there was a concern about the impact on low income households and who owned the rat. If they started charging no one would ring the Council to get rid of the rat. It fell on the Council to control the rat population. Not providing the service was not an option. He preferred option 4 or 5 although there was no indication of price for option 4. He believed that they should go out to tender to provide a strategic rat control service providing the best value for money.
The Cabinet Member for Communities was also leaning towards options 4 and 5. He was not surprised that the rat population was migrating due to the closure of restaurants and cafes. This might change in future as businesses reopened. This had simply made the public aware of the rat population within their environment. The consultation had been undertaken before the pandemic and the findings might now be questionable. Discontinuing the service was unthinkable and he was happy with options 4 or 5.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change explained that as expected, the authority would need to go for the best value option. With regard to the question who owned the rat, option 3 provided a solution as if it was in the house, there was a free service. To secure value for money, they would have to go out to tender with a specification and see what the market would provide in terms of an improved service.
The Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help asked that they look at a strategy to eradicate rather than control the rat population and that the tender should reflect this. She believed there would be long term savings if this was tackled properly in the first instance. The Deputy Leader added that there would always be a rat presence so it was important to have a combination of a proactive and reactive service.
The Leader said that it could not be addressed by one agency alone and a multi-agency strategy across the borough was required. They could also consider taking soundings from the Public Service Board.
The Group Manager for Transformation and Customer Services explained that within the current contract was a clause to maintain close working relationships with SRS. Rentokil linked in with SRS to tackle issues such as rubbish in garden and would work to address issues. They would make sure that would be factored into the future specification.
The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change explained that there were 2 parts to this, the strategy which was the SRS part and pest control which was on top of that. There was already a strategic approach.
The Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help replied that she was aware of it and had experience of it and in her opinion it did not move quickly enough was not effective enough. There was a lot of batting back and forth and discovering and solving the root cause was not effective enough. The Interim Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change said that would be taken through to the SRS Board.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
· Considered the options outlined in the report and agreed to go out to tender.
· Wanted to provide a free service and favoured options 4 and 5 as referred to in the report.