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'Local code of practice' sought between councils and scrap dealers

The Local Government Association has published a Metal Theft Toolkit aimed at helping council and police partnerships tackle metal theft by using scrap metal dealers as a ‘critical control point’.

The toolkit contains information on current powers, proposals for future regulations and examples of work being done across the country, with templates for councils to adapt for local use.

The process would see councils contacting scrap metal dealers in their regions and asking them to sign up to a code of practice. Visits to dealers would be organised and assessments take place to check that yards are complying with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.

Councils would follow up by carrying out further checks to ensure compliance with the Act. This could include test purchases to ensure operators were implementing actions agreed under the local code of practice.

Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board and leader of Kirklees Council, said: “There is growing pressure for more action to be taken to deter metal theft, including tougher sentences for those caught stealing metal, stricter regulation of scrap metal dealers and, in the longer term, the use of different materials to reduce the incidents of thefts.”

Some of the key options being explored by the LGA and the Home Office include:

• Introduction of cashless payments: Several good practice schemes, including Operation Tornado, require voluntary adoption of a cashless payment system.

• Developing a revised licensing regime: Proposals exist to tighten the licensing regime to bring it more in line with regimes such as that for the sale of alcohol. There is not yet a consensus on what this regime would look like. On 8 February 2012, the Government announced proposals to grant the Environment Agency powers to remove environmental permits if a scrap yard was convicted of dealing in stolen metal.

• Increasing fines: It is widely recognised that the existing fine limit of £1,000 is inadequate. The Government has tabled proposals to increase fine levels.

• Improved collaboration with partners: A taskforce led by the British Transport Police has been established to further investigate ways of tackling metal theft.

• Innovation in design: Work is underway to design-out the use of metal in some items or make it more difficult to remove.

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