Rat-catchers have been called to government buildings an average of five times a day since 2014, City A.M. can reveal.
Michael Gove’s department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has spent the most money trying to get vermin under control, with Defra forking out £740,000 on pest controllers, according to figures released after a Freedom of Information request.
But the most calls to rat-catchers comes from the Department of Work and Pensions, headed by Esther McVey, with 8,445 incidents across their properties since April 2014.
At least £1million has been spent on pest control since 2013/14, but the figure is likely to be far higher as many departments either refused to hand over the information or did not keep count of individual callouts.
One former facilities manager who oversaw parts of the Whitehall estate blamed messy civil servants for the ongoing battle against mice and rats.
They told City A.M.: “A lot of people keep food in their desks so they are basically inviting rodents in for lunch.
“Even though everyone knew there was a problem nothing was done to try to stop the vermin in the offices.”
City A.M. sent FOI requests to all Government departments asking how many times pest controllers had been called out since 2013/14 and the cost to the taxpayers.
Defra had 211 call outs over this time, at a total cost of £739,658. That meant a visit from a rat-catcher cost an average of £3,505.
The DWP revealed 8,445 call outs, but would only provide the cost for the 1,190 visits since April 2018 – a total of £264,000.
If that average cost of £222 was replicated for the previous years, the true figure spent on pest controllers by the department could be £1.9million.
The Department of Business has had 98 call outs since 2015, but could not provide the cost, while the Department of Transport had 22 visits since 2013/14, but could only provide the cost for 2013/14 and 2014/15 – a total of £1.495.
The departments for Brexit, Education, Justice, Northern Ireland and the Treasury either refused to hand over the information or could not give specific details.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Defra owns sites across the country, including a number of large sites such as farms and campuses, and our pest control call out numbers reflect this.
“The health and safety of our staff is paramount, which is why we undertake both planned preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance, and operate in accordance with best industry standards.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “DWP is the biggest operational Government department, responsible for almost 1.5 million square meters of office space across the UK in around 935 sites. It is vital that we create a welcoming and safe environment for staff and customers and we take immediate action to resolve issues with pests.”
John O'Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "Perhaps more departments can follow the lead of Downing Street and employ the help of a feline friend like Larry the cat."