South Ribble 'rat tax' scrapped

South Ribble's cabinet has dropped a controversial charge for residents to have rodents removed from their homes.
South Ribble's cabinet has dropped a controversial charge for residents to have rodents removed from their homes.
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South Ribble Borough Council has killed off its policy of making householders pay to have mice and rats removed from their properties.

The controversial £41 charge was suspended last month after one resident took a rodent into the reception area of the authority in protest.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, the fee was officially disposed of “in light of public health concerns”, according to a report presented to members.

Speaking after the meeting, deputy leader Cllr Caroline Moon, said: “It became apparent to us that [the charge] wasn’t working in the way we would have wanted and our residents felt it wasn’t right. We took an urgent decision to suspend these charges and now we’ve [decided] for that to be a permanent removal.”

But standard fees for some other services will rise by 2.5 percent from 1st August. The authority describes the affected services as those provided to residents “on a request basis”.

The Conservative-run council first considered restructuring its charges in January. Back then, controversy raged over plans to introduce car parking charges in Worden Park.

That proposal was also dropped - before a broader plan to increase pay and display parking rates elsewhere in the borough was defeated on the casting vote of the mayor.

The cabinet heard a new policy on car parking was soon to be formulated.

“We want to have a strategic look at our car parks right across the borough,” Cllr Moon said. “For me, it’s about making sure we are doing things which are right, that are joined up and have an absolute sense of purpose.”

Charges for specialist services, such as building control fees, will also rise. And for the first time, homeowners will have to pay a £50 fee to obtain advice prior to submitting a planning application.

Cllr Moon said: “Fees and charges in South RIbble haven’t been increased for many years. But we’re going to hit a point where, in some areas, we are delivering services [and] cannot cover the cost.

“It’s not something you would first choose to do. But it’s what we need to do to ensure we’re in a stable financial position - or else, we can’t deliver anything,” she added.

Scrapping charges to remove rodents from domestic properties is expected to cost the council £10,000. Increased building control and pre-planning application fees are forecast to generate an additional £82,000 over the course of a full financial year.

The council has a target to increase income from charges by a total of £121,000 by 2019/20.