Pest control gets good positive coverage in Undercover Boss programme

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The latest episode of Channel 4’s Undercover Boss screened on 22 July featured Kevan Collins, the chief executive of Tower Hamlets council in East London. Kevan went underground to experience conditions on the front-line of the business for himself.

Over the course of a week, Kevan worked alongside staff as a trainee pest control officer, meals on wheels provider, on the beat as an enforcement officer, alongside the market inspectors and at the reception of the Housing and Homelessness Service.

To watch the programe in full click here.

This was billed as a very timely programme, as Kevan Collins faces the task of slashing £50 million off the council’s budget over the next three years. Kevan saw the filming as an opportunity to get to grips with the services on offer in the borough where he lives and works. However, the programme failed to reveal how Kevan is going to achieve this objective.

One would suspect, most people who watch this programme sit there eagerly awaiting some ‘shock-horror’ revelation – as this is telly entertainment after all. In which case they were disappointed. With the exception of the market enforcement officers whose operating brief could be clearer, the other employees featured stood-out as shining beacons working their socks-off providing a valuable service.

All credit must go to Tim Stevens, the council’s pest control supervisor, who had Kevan for a day on his front-line. Maybe unwittingly, Tim made some brilliant comments about the pest control service. With a £800,000 annual budget, Tower Hamlets received 26,000 call-outs last year ranging from bedbugs to poisonous snakes – a 10% rise over the previous year.

Tim took Kevan to a call-out from a lady resident with a rat problem. He calmly placated the lady, Kevan baited the discovered rat borrows and then with Tim to guide him proceeded to explore the likely cause of the problem – the drains. Tim clearly made the point that treating the symptom was all well and good, but really it was the cause (the drains/sewers) that needed investigation. He also explained that several authorities now contract-out pest control to save money, so the contracted company working to a tight budget, would not be able to get to grips with this sort of problem. “We”re not here to make a profit. We”re here to provide a service,” said Tim.

The Independent newspaper in their piece reviewing the programme (click here to view in full) summed it all up, saying: “The heart of the piece came from the council workers. Tim, on pest control, stole all of the best lines as he calmly dealt with hysterical home-owners. “I would die if a rat got in this house! I”d move out! It could eat me!” said one. “Unlikely,” countered Tim. “Rats have extremely poor eyesight and they”re colour-blind.” In a show that aims to expose poor working practices, only pride and dedication could be found. These were star employees and it was moving to watch them work.”

When the chief revealed his true identity, Tim may wish he hadn’t said quite what he did: “I’m totally gobsmacked – it’s the chief executive!” But there was more than a happy ending, as Tim was complimented on his passion for the work and for being a natural teacher – a skill which was rewarded with the offer of their very first apprentice within the pest control team.


Kevan Collins 
Undercover – Kevan Collins

Tim Stevens 
Star of the show – Tim Stevens  

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