South Tyneside has one of the worst pest problems in the country, with 10 call-outs every day, shocking new statistics have revealed.
Figures show that the borough’s council dealt with 3,620 call-outs relating to infestations of ants, rats, mice and wasps in the past year.
Pest controllers responded at a rate of more than 24 per 1,000 residents – the fifth-highest in the UK in a list ranking each council by the total number of call-outs relative to population.
There were 954 callouts to deal with ants, 835 to get rid of rats and 539 call-outs to clear away mice.
The average cost per call-out was at £31.47.
The data comes from the fifth study carried out by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) analysing nationwide demand for pest control.
The trade body sent Freedom of Information requests to all 390 district, borough and unitary authorities in the UK, with all but 26 replying.
Chiefs at South Tyneside Council say that there is a “high-demand” for its pest control service while also calling on residents who encounter such problems to ring them.
Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA technical manager, said: “Our study provides the most comprehensive indication of the demand placed on local authorities for pest control.
“There may be a number of localised factors why certain areas seem to have high numbers of particular pests.
“Some authorities, for example, will have many urban areas within their boundaries while others will be largely rural.
“Some will have lots of food establishments, which tend to attract pests, and others could have less frequent bin collections.
“But it’s important to recognise higher figures could simply illustrate that a local authority is working proactively to manage any issues.”
The survey reveals the number of reports responded to by councils across the UK plummeted by 22% last year.
It shows staffing levels within their pest control teams has dropped by almost 25% since 2012 and that response rates have fallen by 33% during the same period.
Mrs Ward-Thompson said: “Local authorities have been under immense pressure to produce savings over the last five years and pest control seems to have been one of the services to have taken a big hit.
“Many councils who once provided pest control free of charge have now either introduced charges or done away with their service altogether in a bid to balance the books.
“And our survey reveals many of those still offering a service are responding to significantly fewer reports due to a lack of resources, which is quite alarming.
“That has already had a significant impact on the pest population, according to our members, and the problem is only likely to get worse.
“We want to ensure this does not have an impact on public health and that short-term budget cuts don’t result in higher costs further down the line.”
Of the 292 local authorities still operating a public pest control service, only 7% offer it free of charge.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “We have a highly experienced and knowledgeable team of pest control technicians offering advice and support to residents and businesses in dealing with a variety of pest problems and how to prevent them.
“The BCPA figures reflect the high demand for our service which is well recognised locally and is generally where our residents turn to for assistance in resolving any issues they have.
“Our service includes the initial visit to their property, investigating the cause of the problem, any subsequent visits within the guarantee period as well as carrying out treatments as part of the management and prevention of further problems occurring.
“We continue to give free telephone advice and guidance on how to proof their properties.
“The council offers highly competitive rates for pest control, for both domestic and commercial premises.
“Further information can be found on our website or anyone who has a problem with pests can call the contact centre on 427 7000.”