Pest controller Bob Howard checks the attic of a house for evidence of rat or squirrel infestation. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris
“If you leave your front door open, don’t be surprised if there’s someone sitting in your living room,” sighs Bob Howard as he scans the walls of a house in commuter-belt Hertfordshire and tries to determine whether rats or squirrels are laying stealthy siege to its loft.
According to the veteran pest controller, rodents aren’t the only creatures making themselves comfortable in our midst: pest populations, including bedbugs, appear to be on the rise across the county just as the money needed to tackle them dwindles. Budget cuts of almost 30% mean that local authorities no longer have the funds to deal with pests. As they have no statutory duty to provide such services, some have reduced their pest control teams and outsourced the work to private contractors; others have introduced charges, while some have ceased offering services altogether.