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Rats warning if council duties go

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Public health could decline to 19th century levels, with infestations of disease-bearing rats, if the Government scraps councils’ duties under the guise of removing ‘burdens’.

That warning has come from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in its response to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s review of the necessity for almost 1,300 statutory duties imposed on councils.

The CIEH said environmental health duties were “made statutory in the first place in response to a need to have protective powers in place”, over the environment, public health and food safety.

Such duties “provide the public and the environment with the protection that a civilised society is entitled to expect”.

If public health duties were relegated to being only powers that councils could optionally exercise, areas of high deprivation would suffer as “economic imperatives will then unduly influence decisions on priorities”, the institute said.

“It is essential therefore that duties are retained in order to minimise health inequalities.”

The response said statutory public health controls had helped to reduce illness, improve working conditions, and led to good sanitation, safe drinking water and food supplies and cleaner air.

“The removal of any of these safeguards risks a regression to the standards of the 19th century,” it said.

Pest control provided an example of what could happen if a service was non-statutory.

The CIEH estimated the country has some 20m rats and “due to financial constraints and the non-statutory requirements of this service, pest control provision in the UK is on the decline”, lowering defences against diseases including “asthma, viruses, tick borne diseases and malaria”.

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