Essex County Council Lib Dems have welcomed a new law giving councils greater powers to combat the blight of scrap metal thefts on communities across the country.
Every scrap metal dealer is having to obtain a licence to trade from their local authority under the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act with councils now able to refuse or revoke licences.
The Act also makes it illegal for anyone to buy or sell scrap metal with cash and gives councils new powers of entry and inspection and the ability to shut down rogue dealers.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales and which successfully lobbied alongside industry stakeholders for the new legislation, expects it to help solve a spiraling national problem that costs the UK economy more than £700 million every year.
It will also help protect against unscrupulous thieves targeting churches, desecrating war memorials and causing disruption by stealing electric cables and metal from railway lines.
A Local Government Association survey last year showed that 9 in 10 councils had been the victims of metal theft at a cost of more than £5 million. Stolen gully covers, electric cables and street furniture was leading to people falling down holes, power cuts and local authorities having to spend millions of pounds on repairs and replacements.
Cllr. Mike Mackrory has said:
“Metal thefts have had a hugely negative impact on communities, businesses and councils with trains disrupted, precious memorials desecrated, church and library roofs vandalised, schools targeted and road signs stolen. We are delighted that Liberal Democrats in government worked hard to ensure that this Bill became law”.
“Much of these stolen goods were ending up in scrap yards and out-dated legislation left councils powerless to act and having to pick up the bill to replace them at a time when funding cuts are putting a strain on their ability to deliver vital services.
“This new Act will help tackle this mindless crime and make it easier for councils and the police to both prevent and tackle this criminal activity that causes such damage, distress and disruption.
“It is also supported by responsible scrap metal dealers keen to see rogue traders shut down and prosecuted and stopped from bringing their trade into disrepute. From today, we can all work together to clean up the industry once and for all and protect communities from the scourge of metal theft.”