Report Calls for Government to take Scrap Metal Action

By on 16/02/2012 in News

'Government needs to make urgent changes to legislation, or provide local authorities and the police with dedicated intervention funding, if it is to put a stop the growing problem of metal theft from highways, buildings and businesses throughout the UK.'

So says the co-author of a new report published by Birmingham City Council into the rapidly escalating costs and problems caused by metal thieves within the city and wider UK.

Cllr Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, said: “From manhole covers to street signs, metal boilers to lead roof flashing, the scale of social and economic problems being increasingly caused by metal theft in this country is virtually unprecedented.

“Not only do thefts lead to great expense in repairing or replacing damaged property, but in cases such as thefts from the railway or the roofs of community buildings, can force vital public services to close down or even directly endanger public safety.

“Clearly self regulation of the industry is not working, so we need Government to act by either bringing in new laws, or providing local bodies such as the police and council with funding and powers which would enable them to take direct action.”

Estimates from and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)  suggest that the direct costs of repairing/replacing property damaged by metal thieves in 2011/12 will be over £1 billion, with the knock-on costs of disruption/dealing with repair work nearer £5.6 billion.

Across the West Midlands the police recorded 7,800 incidents of metal theft in 2011.

In Birmingham alone more than 900 manhole covers have been stolen since June 2011, while £45,000 worth of pipe work and metal boilers have been stolen from vacant council properties over the past 12 months.

While the scrap value to thieves is around £8 for a manhole cover, and around £30 for a metal boiler, the cost to the public purse in buying new replacements and having them fitted is typically 20-30 times as much.

Around 100 scrap metal dealers and collectors are registered with Birmingham City Council on a free and voluntary public register introduced under the Scrap metal Dealers Act, with the number of new entrants and renewals rising four-fold between 2010 and 2011.

However due to the voluntary nature of the scheme it is estimated that there are at least as many again unregistered dealers and collectors operating in Birmingham.

While some have called for the introduction of a new regime which outlaws 'cash transactions' at scrap metal dealers, others have expressed concerns that this could harm the significant amount of legitimate trade which currently occurs when the public/small businesses bring materials direct to dealers, or dealers make ad-hoc/individual collections from individual doorsteps. 


Notes to Editors


Scrap metal prices have risen considerably in recent years, coinciding with a significant increase in reports of metal thefts.

The current indicative 'price per tonne' for some of the most commonly stolen scrap metals include:

Copper wiring            £4,800

Copper pipe              £4,700

Sheet lead                 £1,150

Lead batteries           £450

Manhole covers         £180

This compares to the below 'price per tonne' of common non-metal recyclables:

Mixed paper              £150

Plastic bottle              £140

Cardboard                 £25

For more information contact Simon Houltby 0121 303 3503

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