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Rule changes will weed out dodgy scrap metal dealers
Thames Valley Police carry out an operation at a scrapyard as part of the force’s crackdown on metal thefts
SCRAP metal dealers will be visited by officers as part of a crackdown on rogue traders.
Under the new rules, which come into force next month, Oxfordshire councils will have the power to enter and inspect sites and revoke or refuse licences if necessary.
And scrap metal firms will have to apply to the authorities for licences – currently they only have to register with the councils.
Oxford City Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said the authority was aware of eight scrap merchant sites around the city which would need to be licensed when the Scrap Metal Dealers Act comes into force next month.
She said: “Local authorities will continue to act as the main regulator but the new act gives licensing authorities more powers, including the power to refuse a licence and powers to revoke licences if the dealer is considered unsuitable.
“Both the local authority and the police have been given powers to enter and inspect premises.”
She added that there would be no cost to the authority other than officer time.
Bicester-based scrap metal dealer Gareth Hughes, of LC Hughes, welcomed the new powers.
He said: “I don’t mind having to register for a licence as long as they keep the costs reasonable.
“It will benefit everyone if the police can go into people’s yards and I think that’s a good thing.”
Middleton Cheney-based scrap metal merchant Paul Jarvis said he hoped the new rules would “weed out the rogue traders”.
Cherwell District Council, Mr Hughes’ local authority, has not yet decided how much it will charge for a new licence, but Oxford City Council will charge £1,200.
District council spokesman Tony Ecclestone said: “The implementation of the new legislation is designed to be cost neutral for councils with legislation allowing them to recover reasonable costs from individuals and business who need to register.
“We don’t anticipate that our approach will change when the new regime comes into force.”
Mr Ecclestone said that three dealers were currently registered with the council as operating from fixed premises.
Gavin Walton, a spokesman for South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of the White Horse District Council, said: “We are still awaiting some additional guidance from the Government, but are in the process of drawing up our policy to implement the new licensing regime in line with the Government’s timescale.”
He added that there were eight registered scrap metal dealers in South Oxfordshire but he was unable to provide the figures for the Vale of the White Horse.
West Oxfordshire District Council spokeswoman Sara Long said: “We are awaiting final guidance before we can comment fully about the effects of the changes.”
Det Insp Ian Wood, South East metal crime co-ordinator at Thames Valley Police, said for the last 18 months a team of four officers had been dedicated to reducing metal theft across the force.
He said: “Due to the increased activity of the police, working closely with partner agencies such as the Environment Agency and local authorities, metal theft fell in 2012/13 by 48 per cent across the force.
“While this licensing and legislation change may have a big impact on the workload of local authorities, TVP has already committed to reducing metal theft and will continue with the work that has already begun.
“Officers will continue to visit scrap metal dealers and prosecute offences if they are detected. We will of course look to use the new powers to push local authorities to revoke licences of those found involved in metal theft or breaching the new legislation.”
West Oxfordshire District Council was asked to comment but did not.
WHAT THE NEW ACT WILL MEAN
Under the current Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 merchants only have to register with their local authority.
The new licensing regime will still be run by local councils but every scrap metal dealer will be required to have a licence, and operating without one will be a criminal offence. Council officers and police officers will have the right to enter and inspect sites from October 1.
Local authorities will have the power to turn down unsuitable applicants and to revoke licences as well as being able to inspect sites.
The act gives local authorities the power to close down unlicensed sites by court order if they don’t have a licence.
Local authorities will be carrying out checks to assess applicants’ suitability to hold a licence between October and December.
Metal thefts in Oxfordshire:
Cherwell – 196 in 11/12 and 120 in 12/13
Oxford – 268 in 11/12 and 89 in 12/13
South and Vale – 314 in 11/12 and 182 in 12/13
West Oxon – 130 in 11/12 and 108 in 12/13
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