THE INCIDENT in which a grandmother was allegedly bitten by a rat at a sheltered housing complex might never have happened but for cuts to York's pest control service, a councillor claimed this afternoon.

Independent Mark Warters also claimed private pest control treatment took place at Glen Lodge in Heworth a few weeks prior to the tragic incident, and vermin had therefore been evident there.

The councillor was calling on City of York Council's Health and Adult Social Care Policy and Scrutiny Committee to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident in which Pamela Hudson, 75, suffered injuries to her face, body and arms which her family believes were the result of multiple rat bites.

He said the committee should also press for the reinstatement of the authority's pest control service, which he claimed had been axed in an 'act of wanton stupidity' by the former Labour administration after years of being 'deliberately and systematically run down.'

Cllr Warters said York now relied on using reactive private services and claimed: "Had we a dedicated local authority pest control service that worked pro-actively to keep vermin down at council properties on a routine basis, this tragic situation might not have arisen."

He said the committee should also request sight of the pest control log at Glen Lodge as well as of independent reports of the incident.

Bedridden Mrs Hudson, 75, was bitten while she slept at the council-run care home in June.

After a spell at York Hospital, she was transferred to St Catherine's Nursing Home in Shipton-by-Beningbrough and died three months later.

A council spokeswoman told The Press that, despite extensive efforts by professional experts, environmental health and independent pest control inspectors, the authority was unable to determine the exact circumstances of how Mrs Hudson's injuries occurred.

But she said: “Staff are on site every day at all the council’s sheltered housing sites and as part of their duties they identify any issues, including necessary repairs or signs of rodent activity.

"The council has comprehensive contracts with pest control companies where necessary, providing ongoing control measures and routine inspections.”

The council spokeswoman said most pest control was by the private sector in York and elsewhere. She said: “Considering the council area covers 88,000 properties and 105 sq miles the local authority dealt with a small number of pest control queries in recent years, whereby the authority offered a service alongside the private sector.

"Taking this into account, the authority followed in the footsteps of many other councils and took the decision last year to cease funding non-statutory pest control services. However, the council will continue to offer information and advice on how best to control and prevent pests to all businesses and residents.”

She said the law said the council need only intervene where it had direct responsibility to do so, in which case it outsourced work to external providers.