The Director of City Services provided the Committee with an update on pest control services following the Committee update and recommended actions at its meeting in September 2021.
She reminded the Members that, at that meeting, it had been agreed that all pest control services would resume to all tenures and that officers would investigate the establishment of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with both the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Housing Associations, with a view to the Council discussing the opportunity of recouping the costs for these services.
The Director reported that, subsequently, on 14th September, the Chief Executive had received correspondence from Minister Hargey,Department for Communities, raising concern about the Council’s restricted Pest Control services for the NIHE and Housing Associations. She drew the Members’ attention to a response that had been forwarded that had advised that pest control services would be resuming to all tenures and that the Council would be exploring the establishment of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with both the NIHE and Housing Associations with a view to the Council discussing the opportunity of recouping the costs for these services.
As previously agreed, the Operational Director had written to the Regional Manager of the NIHE and all Housing Associations to advise that services would resume and that the Council would welcome a meeting to discuss the establishment of an SLA between both parties. Services had subsequently resumed in early October for all tenures.
The Director reported that a meeting had been held on 16th November with the NIHE to explore the option of an SLA. At that meeting, the NIHE representatives had shared concerns about ensuring equity across all constituents and tenures allowing access to Belfast City Council pest control services free of charge. They had advised that the NIHE had approximately 30,600 properties in the Belfast City Council area and paid 100% rates on all these properties, whether occupied or void, and they had expressed the need to ensure that NIHE tenants were entitled to benefit from the Council’s free public health pest control services.
It had also been highlighted that the NIHE had used its own contractor for pest control over the last 18 months and had absorbed this cost directly. Their service requests had totaled approximately 1400 over the period of September 2020 to 2021, this was significantly more than a normal pre Covid year which was, in their opinion, mainly due to the reduced provision of Council services.
The Director reported that, since the last update in September, the waiting time for an appointment for an internal treatment or sewer baiting treatment was now approximately 3 weeks. She detailed that the impact of the pandemic generally and within front line services continued to challenge the resumption of the operational services to pre-pandemic service standards. In addition, recruitment was currently underway to fill vacancies which in turn had reduced the overall capacity of the team. It was expected that in the coming weeks waiting times would increase significantly as referrals fully resumed for Housing Associations and NIHE properties, however, she advised that these would be closely monitored.
The Committee noted the update report on the current position for pest control services and the resumption of pest control services for NIHE and all Housing Associations.