AN Antrim councillor has said money used to provide tobacco control officers could be better used to reinstate a pest control service for local councils.
Kieran McMullan made the comments following a visit by the Northern Groups Systems’ Assistant Director, Perry Donaldson, to Antrim Council’s Environment and Borough Services Committee on Thursday.
During Mr Donaldson’s presentation, he outlined how NGS is staffed, with four ‘Tobacco Control Officers’ employed in the service.
He also explained how NGS - which provides environmental health support services to 10 local councils including Antrim - took the controversial decision to dissolve its pest control service last year.
Mr Donaldson said that while there was “no statutory requirement” to provide the pest control service, it had been provided to local councils by NGS since 1980.
But, he explained that due to a number of factors, it was “no longer sustainable”.
However, Cllr. McMullan - himself a smoker - said that with the success of the smoking legislation, he wanted to know if there was still the same need for tobacco control officers and if resources could not be directed, instead to pest control.
Mr Donaldson informed him that the funding for the Tobacco Control Officers came directly from the Public Health Agency.
“That funding is ring-fenced for that particular service to fulfil statutory obligations,” Mr Donaldson said.
He added that the Tobacco Control Officers are required to ensure legislation is complied with, as well as enforcement and education.
Cllr. McMullan conceded that if the funding was ring-fenced, “there’s nothing we can do about it”.