YOU can tell I’m a townie, I just don’t pick up on those little signals from nature and the animal kingdom. Perhaps I should pay a bit more attention.

My wife and I were doing a bit of gardening on one of the nice days earlier in the year and were a little surprised when we found what looked like an animal-sized tunnel going under the fence between us and our next-door neighbour.

We didn’t really think much about it, to be honest, and just continued to dig up the weeds and plant some seeds.

Fast forward to last weekend and the ear-piercing shriek of horror as my wife witnessed a rat making a run for it across our garden in broad daylight. The daring rodent then disappeared from view behind the honeysuckle bush.

I was promptly ordered to investigate and yes, you’ve guessed it, the animal-sized tunnel under the fence was back with us.

It became very obvious very quickly that our furry friends are using our garden as a rat-run.

Now I’m fairly relaxed about this. I’m all for a bit of live-and-let-live. To be honest, there’s no evidence the rats have got any closer to our house than the bottom of our garden and they do just seem to be using it to transit from one place to another.

Doing a typical bloke thing, I sort of shrugged my shoulders and tried to make my ‘leave well alone’ point of view to my wife.

Needless to say, that didn’t go down terribly well.

Half an hour spent on the internet provided all the ammunition she needed.

Firstly, the fact we had seen a rat during the day was a problem in its own right. Apparently, rats do most of their running about during the hours of darkness and seeing one during the day is evidence of a major infestation.

Then I was treated to all the diseases rats carry, including bubonic plague (usually fatal within a few days of infection); salmonella (often fatal if contracted from rats); rat-bite fever (fatal in 10 per cent of untreated cases); leptospirosis (potentially fatal); tapeworms (parasites that hatch out in the gut where they grow and reproduce); murine typhus (treatable with antibiotics, but can cause death in the elderly or infirm individuals).

So much for my live-and-let-live attitude.

Having been presented with this list of potentially apocalyptic diseases, I was then faced with the decision about what to do about the rodent-shaped issue.

Now I am fairly convinced the source of the problem doesn’t reside in and around my garden and house.

As I said earlier, the only evidence of rats is at the bottom of the garden. But the fact these particular rodents have elected to use my garden as a transit lounge has made it an issue for me.

Right, I thought, I’ll get on to the council first thing on Monday morning. After all, they’re the experts and will know what to do about it. I pay my council tax like everyone else and surely this is a public health issue they will be obliged to deal with.

You only have to take a quick look at the list of potentially fatal diseases to see it must be something that falls under the council’s remit.

Well, yes and no, it would appear.

If you want the extravagantly named Cheshire West and Chester Council’s pest control people to come and have a look at your rat problem, it will cost you a £25 survey fee and £25 for three treatment visits.

I’m not 100 per cent sure if that’s two lots of £25 because it doesn’t make it clear on the council website but nevertheless, there’s a cost.

This set me thinking so I had a quick search to see if this was a standard charge or if other local authorities charge less (or more).

I can’t work out if Cheshire East’s scale of charges is better or worse. It charges £10 per treatment to get rid of your rat problem, which I suppose is fine if it works first time.

If you live in neighbouring Altrincham and have to call on the services of Trafford Council’s pest team, expect to pay a standard charge of £53 for three visits while Warrington Borough Council charges an eye-watering £74.16.

But if you find yourself infested with rats, by far and away the best place to live is in Runcorn or Widnes. Halton Borough Council obviously takes its public health responsibilities very seriously and makes no charge at all – yes nothing – to get rid of your rats.

Now that’s what I call providing a public service.