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Success for local Lib Dem campaign on tackling metal theft

March 1, 2015 10:18 PM

Local Lib Dems have welcomed the news that scrap metal thefts have fallen by a third in the past year - combatting unscrupulous thieves targeting churches, desecrating war memorials and causing disruption by stealing electric cables and metal from railway lines.

Latest figures show there were 40,680 metal thefts in England and Wales in 2013/14 - down from 59,788 in the previous 12 months.

The decline in metal thefts - which cost the economy around £770 million a year - follows the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act which came into force in October 2013 alongside a range of other measures to tackle the crime. Liberal Democrats in Hinckley and Bosworth campaigned for such a law in 2012 after St Mary's Church in Hinckley suffered £50,000 in damage after metal was stolen from the Church Roof.

Hinckley Lib Dem Councillors David Bill and Michael Mullaney wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding new laws to tackle the problem.

Under the law, every scrap metal dealer had to obtain a licence from their local council to trade. Town halls have been able to refuse or revoke licences, have new powers of entry and inspection and the ability to shut down rogue dealers.

It is also now illegal for anyone to buy or sell scrap metal with cash while traders have to keep records of names and addresses of scrap metal suppliers. This is increasing traceability for all transactions and making it more difficult for thieves to sell stolen metal to scrapyards.

Councils across the country have been assisting the police to prosecute unlicensed traders and shut down scrap metal businesses that break the law.

Other figures include:

Infrastructure-related metal thefts - including from railway lines, church roofs and machinery - dropped by 41 per cent in the past year;

The number of metal theft offences recorded each month more than halved from 6,609 in April 2012 to under 3,000 in March 2014;

Cllr Michael Mullaney said:"The scourge of metal theft costs the country hundreds of millions of pounds a year and has a hugely negative impact on communities, businesses and councils.

"It sees trains disrupted, precious memorials desecrated, church and library roofs vandalised, children's playground equipment targeted and road signs stolen. We saw the damage ourselves here in Hinckley when St Mary's Church was targetted.

"Such a significant drop in metal thefts is excellent news for communities who have suffered from the chaos, disruption and heartache caused by unscrupulous metal thieves.

"David Bill and I had been calling for new laws to help regulate the scrap metal industry in order to make it more difficult for thieves to flog their stolen goods to scrap yards and it is great to see we made the Government has done this."

Cllr David Bill added "Of course any scrap metal theft is unacceptable and there is still much to do.But this is welcome news, I'm glad the new laws we called for here in Hinckley have helped tackle the blight of scrap metal theft."