A council which demanded a risk assessment before catching moles making a mess of a pretty graveyard was accused of health and safety madness today.
Independent county councillor John Shuttleworth said officials at Durham County Council were wasting time and money while the problem in picturesque Weardale got worse.
He asked for staff to come out to tackle the moles in Rookhope and Cowshill cemeteries, but was shocked to receive an email in reply saying: "Having now ordered further mole traps from our supplier to meet the demand of dealing with mole complaints within cemeteries, I have tasked an officer to attend next week to do a risk assessment prior to carrying out a mole trapping exercise."
Mr Shuttleworth said: "This is silliness and bureaucracy of the highest order.
"I can set a mole trap myself - it's not rocket science.
"This is health and safety madness.
"We haven't the time or the money to waste on this."
Previously, before Wear Valley Council was swallowed up by Durham County Council, a local molecatcher was tasked with the job and his bill was usually around £30, Mr Shuttleworth said. He charged £2.50 per mole.
Now, each risk assessment visit will cost the county council £47 alone, before any mole catching has taken place.
The county council said the previous mole catcher did not have the required qualifications to carry out the work.
In a statement, Streetscene manager James Bennett said: "As a council, we have to ensure we have adhered to legislation and have a rigid system in place for the control of moles.
"As a minimum qualification all of our pest control officers are trained, or receiving ongoing training, to achieve a RSPH/BPCA Level 2 Certificate.
"This gives them the knowledge of all legislation, guidelines, animal welfare and health and safety issues they need to adhere to in the pest control industry, however we believe this gentleman uses methods which are not recommended under the legislation.
"He was not able to confirm that he had the required knowledge of the pest control legislation. If he could do this then we could review the situation."