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LGA - New licensing rules for scrap metal dealers come into force

New rules giving councils greater powers to combat the blight of scrap metal thefts on communities across the country came into force yesterday (October 1).

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 (LGA), 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.

An LGA survey last year showed that nine 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 Mehboob Khan, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, 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.

"Much of these stolen goods were ending up in scrap yards and outdated legislation left councils powerless to act and having to pick up the bill to replace them at a time when funding cuts are putting a strain on their ability to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."

Notes for editors

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 replaced the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act. It was a Private Member's Bill introduced by Richard Ottoway MP and was passed in Parliament on February 12, 2013.

The new licensing regime begins on October 1. There will be a two-month transitional period to allow existing dealers to apply for new licences in time for enforcement rules coming into force on December 1. The LGA has been working with working with councils to provide guidance on how to implement and interpret the new Act and set appropriate licensing fees.

Licences will last for three years and trading without a licence or buying metal with cash becomes a criminal offence. Anyone looking to sell scrap metal will need a licence and provide ID at the point of sale which is recorded by the scrap metal. A central public register of all those licensed will be kept by the Environment Agency.

LGA's Metal theft survey 2012 

Other key facts

The Association of Chief Police Officers estimated theft of metal costs the UK economy £770 million per year.

One memorial per week is targeted for metal, according to the War Memorials Trust.

Virgin Trains said that In 2010/11 there were 6,000 hours of train delays related to more than 3,000 metal thefts.


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