Council chiefs have hit out at figures which suggest call outs for incidents of pest control are among the highest in the country.
According to new figures from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) there were 4,146 call outs in 2012 for pests - 23 per 1,000 residents.
The town was ranked 15th in 2011 but has jumped three places as environmental teams deal with more and more incidents.
However, while the council do acknowledge the BPCA’s figures are accurate, they say are misleading because the council offers many free services which other authorities do not.
A St Helens council spokesman said: “Unfortunately this is a pretty misleading analysis that fails to compare like with like.
While the figures quoted by the BPCA appear accurate, they fail to include any context.
“In St Helens we are proud to offer free treatments for public health pests (including rats, mice, fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches, which are proven carriers of disease). However many authorities charge for all except rat treatments. This results in a far lower demand for council pest control services in those areas.
“The BPCA survey includes all pests – including non-public health pests such as wasps, bees, ants and store product pests. These accounted for around 35 per cent of the calls received. However these (chargeable) treatments provide a valuable source of income for the council’s pest control service – and help to underwrite the costs of public health treatment work.
“As a result, St Helens Council’s pest control service is moving to a cost-neutral service when account is taken of income generated by such work. Many authorities no longer provide such services and will therefore appear to have fewer demands for treatment.
“The figures reported by BPCA are all merely requests for service - not confirmed infestations.
“In addition to providing valuable income, our proactive sewer baiting and provision of commercial contracts also contribute to the high volume of work undertaken.”
The BPCA made Freedom of Information Act requests to every local authority in the UK, asking for information about the numbers of call-outs council pest controllers had attended in 2012.
BPCA Chief Executive, Simon Forrester, said: “There are many localised reasons why an area could have a high prevalence of a certain pest, but we’re concerned that at a national level pest control services are being cut.
“Local authorities are under immense strain to come up with savings. The BPCA wants to make sure this doesn’t have an impact on public health.
“If a council stops providing pest control services it is important the public uses a reputable expert such as a BPCA member.”