The Local Government Association (LGA) has clashed with the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) over claims that councils are putting legitimate scrap metal businesses at risk by failing to issue licences.
A recent survey by the BMRA of around 600 of its members found that councils had yet to issue 40% of scrap metal dealers’ licences as required by the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
But the LGA said its own survey of 42 councils earlier this year revealed they had processed 80% of the licence applications they received between 1 October and 1 December.
An LGA spokesman said existing scrap metal dealers had been granted transitional licences when they submitted applications last October and that councils had issued more than 6,000 licences so far.
He added: “This allows them to continue trading legally until they are issued a full licence by their council so they should not be experiencing any impact on their legitimate trade.
“Delays have been caused by a variety of reasons such as applications submitted incomplete or without the correct fee. Some councils have also seen delays after agreeing for every application to be vetted by the police and in receiving disclosure certificates.”
The BMRA warned delays were leading to legitimate traders losing trade as many customers will only deal with licensed operators.
Ian Hetherington, BMRA director general, said: “It is imperative that councils struggling with scrap metal dealer licences are given the adequate support to process them as quickly as possible.”
The BMRA also warned “very few” transitional licences had been issued and that some major scrap metal merchants now require evidence of a current licence as part of their tender process.
The LGA spokesperson said: “We are writing to councils again this week to remind them to notify the Environment Agency of licences issued so the public register can be as up-to-date as possible.”
The LGA is also concerned that under the current regulations where a council is considering refusing an application it has to be dealt with by the executive and not by the authority’s licensing committee.
The spokesperson added: “DCLG has agreed to revise the regulations giving councils a choice as to whether the executive or licensing committees hear applications, but the change has not yet been implemented.”
In January at the House of Lords, Lord Greaves (Lib Dem) questioned Lord Taylor of Holbeach over licensing.
He said: “The Scrap Metal Dealers Act contains one major defect that local authorities licensing scrap metal dealing cannot do it through their non-executive licensing functions, but have to do it through their executive or cabinet, which is causing difficulties. When will this be remedied?”