Deputy Labour leader calls for tougher action on metal thefts

By Ian Dipple Friday 02 November 2012 Updated: 05/11 12:51

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Buy photos » Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch (left) with some lead free flashing and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman (right) with some lead. Both met with residents affected by metal thefts and are calling for tougher action to tackle the problem. Picture by Ian Dipple (s)

THE DEPUTY leader of the Labour Party has called for a new law to licence scrap metal dealers on a visit to Redditch.

Harriet Harman met victims of metal theft at Woodrow Community Centre on Thursday (November 1) where two businesses have had lead stolen from their roofs.

She told the Standard the Government had been too slow to react to the problem and set out a four point plan including licensing dealers, more police powers, requiring sellers to give their name and address and a ban on cash payments.

"It’s only going to be a growing problem and it’s not just somebody who finds their roof is leaking because all of the lead flashing has been taken off, it’s not just historic buildings being damaged by people yanking out copper piping, it’s also going to cause danger or injury because sooner or later as people rip off the drain covers somebody is going to have a really bad accident," she said.

"I’m going to go back to Westminster and say to the Government they must follow this up and quickly, people want action now."

In the last year there were 177 incidents of lead theft across Redditch on top of a spate of drain cover thefts which saw 350 stolen in four months and the Standard reported recently how thieves are now stealing catalytic converters from cars to sell.

Fladbury Close resident Sylvia Cook told how she had been woken up thieves stealing lead flashing from the roof of her bungalow and that of her neighbour in the early hours of the morning.

"You could hear them ripping it off the roof. It wasn’t a nice experience."

Dr Gilly Cooper, from Elgar House Surgery in Church Road, said their roof had been targeted about 18 months ago and had caused numerous problems when it leaked.

"There was the drying out of the room, the new carpet we had to get and the computers went down so it was disruptive for patients. It was quite a mess."

Winyates based roofer Tony Edwards, who deals with commercial properties, said thieves caused £20,000 worth of damage at one business but only stole £400 worth of lead. But he said an alternative was now available which did the same job as the metal but was worthless to thieves.

"If you are unfortunate enough to have it taken then the last thing you want to do is replace lead with lead as you find when they’ve been there once they will come back again."

Rebecca Blake, Labour’s Parliamentary Spokeswoman for Redditch and who invited Ms Harman, welcomed the Government's moves to ban cash payments and increase fines but added the police needed the powers to deal with rogue traders.

"Banning cash transactions in itself will not solve the problem, while legitimate scrap yards will go cashless, some yards may continue to take cash and continue a black market. Labour is calling for tougher powers for the police to close these rogue traders down. Currently the police cannot enter a yard and close it down - so the Government’s plan won’t achieve what it is setting out to do."

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