RAT complaints are on the rise in Runcorn and Widnes, a survey has revealed.

Halton Council dealt with 22.96 pest problems per 1,000 residents over a year, making it the 21st highest figure out of 314 English authorities.

It is the first time the demand for pest control has been analysed by the British Pest Control Association National (BPCA) Survey.

Halton’s pest control team was called out 1,143 times to alleviate problems with rats, ranking it 38th in the league table.

There were 16 complaints about bed bugs, putting the authority at 109 in the table.

Five call outs to deal with cockroaches placed Halton at 105.

Pests covered by the data include rats, mice, bedbugs, cockroaches, wasps, ants and birds.

Simon Forrester, chief executive of the BPCA, said: “This is the most comprehensive study of the demand placed on local authorities for pest control ever carried out and it covers a period when the austerity measures were starting to bite.

“We are concerned that pest control budgets are being hit.”

A Halton Council spokesman said: “There may be a number of reasons for the relatively high number of complaints received about rats within the borough which are outside the control of the council.

“The figures quoted are numbers of complaints rather than confirmed number of rats which can be misleading.

“Halton Council provides a free pest control service to residents for rats which is likely to result in more calls.

“Our pest control officers will respond promptly to any request for rat treatments, last year we dealt with 99 per cent of all rat complaints within three working days.”