MORE than £60,000 has been ploughed into sorting rat problems across 12 months in Reading including one infestation of ‘rats the size of cats’ in Coley.

Neighbours living in the high-rise flats and the Wensley Road loop had reported rat infestations back in 2019 and 2020.

The problem had become so bad that neighbours said rats ‘the size of cats’ were roaming the area, and had bored holes in the concrete structures of the flats.

The issue was big enough to gain the attention of the national news publication The Mirror.

But Reading Borough Council has progressively been able to solve the problem using pest controllers and effective waste management.

READ MORE: Rats 'the size of cats' could be sneaking through toilets of homes 

Ellie Emberson, the lead councillor for housing and also a representative of the area has explained how the problem has declined from its disturbing high point a few years ago.

Cllr Emberson, (Labour, Coley) said:  “There’s been a lot of work and investment on the rats specifically to make sure that we eradicate that issue so it’s much better now.

“I know they are still having sitings because residents have said there have been a few but not on the scale we used to have.

“The council has been using a pest controller to deal with that, and making sure that rubbish is put in the bins properly, because when they have a source of food they are inevitably going to keep growing.

“So between managing the bins better and having the pest controller, we do feel that we have made a lot of progress on the rats generally.”

Reading Chronicle: Ellie Emberson, lead councillor for housing on Reading Borough Council and a Labour representative for Coley ward. Credit: Reading LabourEllie Emberson, lead councillor for housing on Reading Borough Council and a Labour representative for Coley ward. Credit: Reading Labour

In an effort to end the rat infestation, the council hired the specialist pest controller, PestPro, which is dispatched to infestations as and when required.

The council spent £62,059.60 on PestPro’s services in the 2022/23 financial year.

Cllr Emberson made the comments in an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

The LDRS then asked her how the performance of PestPro has been monitored.

She replied that while councillors do not work with PestPro on an operational level, council staff reported to her and her colleagues at the time.

Cllr Emberson said: “Clearly we’ve lobbied as councillors to solve the issue, because it’s not nice for them, and they don’t want rats in their area.

“When it was really bad we were getting more regular reports from council staff just to let us know what had gone on that week so we could reassure residents that things were happening."

The decline in rat infestations in Coley comes as work is being undertaken to build 46 homes by demolishing defunct garages and making improvements to the high rise blocks.

But cllr Emberson argued that the construction played little part in the eradication of the rats in Coley.

She said: “These are entirely separate. Rats can be disturbed because they nest, I don’t think the building site has made it worse, because it’s become less of an issue in terms of the residents telling me.”

Cllr Emberson added that management of the site and relocation of the bins had helped, but is separate to the ultimate resolution of the infestation.

READ MORE: Neighbours dismayed at 'being ignored' over rat infestation in Southcote flats

Recently, neighbours living in Granville Road in nearby Southcote have complained about a rat infestation.

A council spokesperson said that it is ‘in the process’ of eradicating the rats in Southcote.