COUNCIL bosses told a single mother she must pay for a live rat to be removed from her bin.

Now they have apologised to Gemma Faulkner, 22, of Meam Close, Osbaldwick, York, who blamed the council's new rubbish collection system for the infestation.

She discovered the animal on Tuesday when she was removing waste from her grey bin to make enough room to last to the next collection.

But when she contacted environmental health officers she was told they would charge her £30 to remove the rat.

Council refuse staff said she would have to wait another week for her usual rubbish collection.

Gemma, who has a two-year-old daughter, Georgina, said: "I'm a single parent just before Christmas; I can't afford it. Even if I paid the £30, they said they would not come to do it until they have a slot in a few days' time. It is the council's fault for changing the bins to every other week.

"I could not leave it there, because what if my daughter had been playing in the garden and knocked the bin over?"

But after Gemma contacted the Evening Press, council staff laid on a special one-off collection for her rubbish, removed the rat and waived the cash payment.

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: "This is a very unusual case. Household refuse bins are specially designed to avoid the attraction of rats through their height and the provision of a lid.

"The council usually arranges a waste collection as a matter of urgency where there is a report of this nature.

"We can only apologise to Ms Faulkner that we were unable to respond as quickly as she or we would have liked in this case."

She said the £30 fee was a standard charge for the removal of vermin, but the service was free to residents on income support.

Gemma said she could not have afforded the payment and felt council staff ignored her concerns.

She said: "The response from the council was absolutely horrendous; they were just not bothered at all. I was in a situation where nobody was going to help me."

Gemma backed the Evening Press's Bin It! campaign opposed to the city council's decision to scrap the weekly refuse collection for 60,000 households, while supporting efforts to boost recycling.

She said. "I am against the fortnightly collections as are lots of people I know. It is just stupid."

A council spokeswoman said: "Residents should always ensure that they close their bin lid to help avoid attracting vermin. When using kerbside boxes, tins and other containers should be rinsed out to remove traces of food.

"Where damage to bins and particularly lids occurs, residents should report this to the council and a replacement will be arranged as soon as possible."

Updated: 10:00 Friday, November 25, 2005