RAT catching and the returning of stray dogs by Stroud District Council (SDC) will now come with a price tag as it looks to plug a gap in its budget.

Getting rid of rats in homes has until now been a free service for the district's residents but they now face paying £45, or £30 for those on income-related benefits.

It will also cost dog owners £25 to have their pet returned if it is lost but micro-chipped, with the concessionary rate now removed, after the proposal was passed by SDC’s strategy and resources committee on Thursday evening (January 9)

The changes were also endorsed by the council’s environment committee last month and they are expected to be ratified at a meeting of the full council, along with a host of other money-saving measures, later this month.

SDC expects to earn £32,000 from the extra charges but will keep fees for other pests, including mice, wasps, fleas and other insects, the same.

Rat catching accounted for 1,134 visits by pest control officers last year, or 72 per cent of their total workload.

In his report to the environment committee on December 5, head of environmental health Jon Beckett said that because of the current economic climate, the move may cause concern for some users.

“However this needs to be balanced against the fact that the council is facing increased financial pressures and all opportunities to generate income need to be considered,” he said.

He added that charging for rat catching, and the subsequent decline in the use of the service by residents, would likely increase the rat population and the risk to public health.

SDC is one of only two councils in the South West still offering the service free of charge.

The National Pest Technicians Association estimates that, as a result of councils starting to charge for pest control and people declining to pay, there has been an increase in the UK rat population of 69 per cent over seven years.