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Problem with rats or neighbourly disputes? Deal with it yourself!
PEOPLE across Worcester are being told to deal with problems like rat infestation, nuisance neighbours and pollution themselves - in a penny-pinching attempt to save cash.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services has come under fire for a controversial "self service" tactic which means requests for help are turned down.
People who call a hotline to report various environmental disputes are now advised to confront the neighbour themselves, giving them personal advice on how to solve it, like buying rat bait.
Although the body deals with problems across the county, back in April Worcester became a 'pilot' area where the new "self service" scheme was launched to save £40,000.
A report on the move says people who ring for "nuisance" help, including issues like air pollution, drainage problems and rubbish are now asked to "self-help" by approaching people themselves to "ask to desist" behaviour that causes it.
They are also told to look at a website for 'self help' advice.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services wants to roll the model out across Worcestershire, but politicians at Worcester City Council say it is a "crazy" system that has "failed" to work.
Steve Jordan, the head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, turned up at a city council meeting to be grilled on it.
Councillor Marc Bayliss said: "Last year an elderly woman in Battenhall had a problem about nuisance fires being created around the back of her house.
"Until it was escalated up the chain the standard response was 'we don't deal with this any more, look at our website for advice', which in my view is an abject failure.
"The fact we are telling people we can't help and that they should write letters to the neighbour or confront them themselves is just plain wrong."
Councillor Joy Squires said: "In the Arboretum area the rat population is certainly growing, and it seems to grow as the means to tackle it diminishes.
"If its your neighbour causing a problem, whatever that may be and you're told to tackle it yourself, and then pay for that to be done, it causes quite a tension.
"It's a failed pilot, in my view."
Other councillors said they had similar stories of residents being unhappy with the new system.
The decision to launch 'self service' was made by a panel of Worcester city councillors due to unprecedented pressure on WRS funding.
Before then with many nuisance issues - like rats - WRS would tackle it themselves and then charge the person responsible for the costs.
It gets yearly grant funding from councils across Worcestershire totalling £5 million but that is being slashed by at least £1.5 million in April and possibly more.
Mr Jordan said: "We don't just say no, but what we are trying to do is to get people to talk to their neighbours and help themselves.
"We are always there as a safety net, particularly for the old and vulnerable, but the pilot is around getting those are capable of helping themselves to do it.
"We often say to people who ring us 'have you spoke to your neighbours' and they say 'I hadn't thought of that'.
"Our financial position means we must look to do things differently and we believe the pilot has demonstrated enough that we can roll it out to other councils as well."
Have you been told to deal with a problem yourself? Call 01905 742248 or email email@example.com.
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