Thefts of lead from church roofs and the stripping away of copper piping, guttering and other metals should reduce in North Kesteven as a result of new regulations covering scrap metal dealing.
Anyone collecting or handling scrap metal – or running a motor salvage operation – in the district must now have a licence issued by the district council.
Coupled with a ban on paying for scrap metal in cash, increased documentation and security checks and increased scope for inspection of premises, these new measures under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 should make the disposal of stolen scrap metal significantly more difficult.
Councils like NKDC now have more powers, including the revocation or refusal of a licence if a dealer is considered unsuitable, increased opportunity to enter and inspect premises and the ability to set licence fees locally.
Members were told that the increased cost of metal worldwide has resulted in a significant increase in metal thefts across the UK, including North Kesteven – at an estimated cost of between £220m and £770m a year to the UK economy. Churches and war memorials have been desecrated, national transport, electricity and telephone infrastructure hit, street furniture removed and homes, schools and businesses affected.
Police say that the scrap metal industry offers the principal outlet for stolen metal in the UK.
All of these measures took effect from October 1 and trading without a licence is now a criminal offence.
Both operators of static sites and mobile collectors need licences now, with only one kind of licence issued to any one individual. Operators working in different council areas must now have a licence from each of those authorities. And they must verify the identity of anyone selling scrap, keep records for three years, note vehicle registrations and copy any cheques used as payment.
North Kesteven District Council set a fee which covers the cost of regular inspections and rigorous enforcement.
Coun Richard Wright, Executive Board Member responsible for licensing, said the council anticipated around 10 applications for licences, with collectors due to pay £147 for a three-year licence, and dealers £1,285.70 to be able to trade for three years – during which time there would be at least seven inspections.
“There is no doubt that the people of North Kesteven have suffered hugely because of metal thefts, whether directly or indirectly in the way they affect public and community services, and it’s right that we do all that we can to regulate the trade of scrap metal – both legitimate and illegal,” said Coun Wright.
Residents should ask to see a trader’s licence and ensure that if they are operating within North Kesteven, the licence was issued by NKDC.