There are bound to be more rats in Powys next year. I've just been catching up on my emails, and came upon one from Darren Millar, Conservative AM for Clwyd West exposing to the world a massive increase in the number of rat and mice infestations over the last year. Almost incredibly, Darren tells us that there were 45,000 such incidents in Flintshire, Swansea and Cardiff alone last year. He puts the blame on Council cuts. Well, after today's National Assembly announcement of next year's grant to Local Authorities, there are going to be plenty more cuts - so plenty more rats.
The increase in the Powys grant is just 1.5%, the lowest in Wales for the second year running. This is bound to be lower than inflation, though we can only guess at what level inflation will be in 2008-09. Today, headline inflation is 5.2%, while real inflation for a rural authority like Powys, where food and fuel are such significant factors is probably about 10%. Some forecasters are suggesting that inflation may fall to about 1-2% next year. Anyway, it looks a really bum deal for Powys at the moment. Looks as if we're in for more cuts - more school closures, less bus services, more rats and less street lighting. At least we will not be able to see the extra rats if all the street lights are turned off. I'm told that councillors are going to be cutting themselves as well - from 73 down to anything from 50-60. That should save a bit, unless its used as an excuse to raise the pay of those left - because of the extra workload you understand.
Now back to these extra rats. Perhaps we should promote 'ratting' as a new 'country sport'. When I was a young lad on the farm, 'ratting' was common. Usually we used air guns and catapults. But we did employ some seriously uncivilised, dirty tricks as well. In those days cattle feed was not stored in rat proof bins, but just dumped in sheds. Booby traps were set. Every orifice but one of the store was securely blocked - and the idea was to sneak up as silently as a barn owl on the hunt, and block the one remaining escape route - before turning on the lights and creating a mass rat panic. There could be 100 of them, which were dispatched by young men armed with hockey sticks and rounders bats. And I knew one man named Monty, (whose wife I saw at last nights Royal Navy Presentation), who used to stick his hand down rat holes and pull them out. His party trick was to hurl them at the ceiling, so that there still writhing bodies would drop on the heads of unsuspecting neighbours. Hard to believe today. I'm told that rats are an increasingly popular and lovable pet.