The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 gave councils the responsibility for the licensing of scrap metal dealers and collectors, as well as the enforcement of the licensing regime alongside the police.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 gave councils the responsibility for the licensing of scrap metal dealers and collectors, as well as the enforcement of the licensing regime alongside the police. Councils have taken a range of different approaches to implement these responsibilities, and this briefing document provides an overview of some good practice case studies and suggests some recommended actions for councils to consider.
As a reminder, the LGA produced a briefing on the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 which provides a summary of the key provisions in the Act and an overview of council’s responsibilities for scrap metal licensing.
The LGA would recommend licensing authorities:
Ensure that a scrap metal dealer receives a visit following the grant of a licence to ensure it is complying with its licence conditions.
Develop good relationships with partners who also have an interest in scrap metal licensing, such as the Environment Agency and the British Transport Police. The LGA recommends regular meetings to share intelligence and support each organisation’s priorities.
Participate in the British Transport Police’s campaigns or ‘days of action’ to tackle scrap metal theft in your local area. These campaigns are often very effective in preventing crime and identifying unlicensed dealers.
- Scrap metal licensing in Dover
Dover District Council takes a risk-based approach to scrap metal licensing. The council has a rating system which it uses to determines how often a scrap metal site will receive a compliance check. A green rating indicates a well-run site, an amber rating indicates the council has concerns about how the site is run, and a red rating indicates that the council has significant concerns about how well the site is run.
When a site is given a scrap metal licence, the council works closely with the site to explain the legislation, and outline what they can and cannot do. A few months later the council will check the site, unannounced, to ensure the scrap metal licence is displayed correctly and that accurate records are being kept. If the site is operating well and the council has no concerns, they will visit the site once more within the three-year period of the licence. However, if the visit identifies issues the site will be put onto an amber rating, given an action plan, and given clear advice on how to improve. The site will then get annual visits to ensure issues are addressed and advice is adhered to. If the site visit identifies significant concerns – such as not displaying a licence, disregarding advice, having stolen metal on site - it will be placed on a red rating. If offences are identified, the site will be given a chance to rectify issues. If a red site still does not comply, the council will look to take enforcement action. This could be through prosecutions or applying to the regulatory committee to revoke a licence. In fact, the council applied to revoke a scrap metal site licence in September 2022 due to repeated non-compliance and poor record keeping.
With regard to scrap metal collectors, the council will monitor their activity throughout the duration of the licence and ensure their records are kept up to date and their licence is displayed correctly. The council has also developed a licence plate that collectors can display at the back of their van to prove they are a licensed collector.
As metal theft is on the rise, Dover has worked closely with partners to engage with licensed sites and provide posters and other materials for sites to display about the risks of handling stolen metal. The council also actively participates in joint enforcement activity which takes place every six months and includes partners such as the police, BT open reach, the Environment Agency, the British Transport Police and others, to try and find stolen metal. If stolen metal is identified on licensed sites, the council will increase its visits and take appropriate enforcement action.
The licensing team works alongside the environmental crime team leader at Dover District Council who looks at related businesses and issues such as waste carriers and fly-tipping. This helps coordinate work across the council, as well as helping to increase resources for enforcement activity.
- Scrap metal licensing in Oldham
Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council is responsible for the administration, compliance, and enforcement of around thirty-five scrap metal site licences and a small number of mobile collector licences. When the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was commenced, the council received many licence applications from itinerant traders, mainly from eastern Europe, who travelled to Oldham to work in the scrap metal trade for six months of the year, before returning home to their country of origin for the remainder of the year. At its height there were around one hundred and thirty mobile licences in force, however since the UK’s exit from the European Union, the number of licences issued has substantially decreased.
When a site receives a scrap metal licence, it will receive annual inspections to ensure they are complying with their licence conditions. These inspections often focus on record keeping and on how payments are made to customers selling to the scrap dealers. In general, licensing officers have developed a good rapport with licensed scrap metal sites and there is a clear understanding of the council’s expectations. Issues with compliance are generally resolved through officers working with sites to make improvements so there is often not the need for prosecutions or licence revocations. If there are issues, sites will get return visits to ensure improvements have been made.
Intelligence suggested that there was an increase in hidden, unlicensed sites operating in the town who were handling stolen cars and their parts. Consequently, the council began regularly working with Greater Manchester Police and other partners, such as the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, on days of action to locate and visit unlicensed sites, and also visit licensed sites, and run checks against vehicles found in these yards. Sometimes the visits are intelligence based and occasionally they are random. The visits have been very effective and have led to stolen vehicles being found. In one example, a vehicle was found being dismantled at a licensed site some thirty-five minutes after being stolen. It is believed this crime is being led by one key perpetrator and the council is working with the police to find this person. The days of action have led to the police making arrests, closure notices being issued for unlicensed sites, and licensing officers taking appropriate action under delegated powers if licensed sites were found to be participating in illegal activity.
Oldham council remains committed to tackling scrap metal theft and the issue of stolen cars being taken to scrap metal sites. Oldham is pleased that, due to its effective enforcement approach, scrap metal theft is decreasing, and illegal sites are increasingly being located and prosecuted.
- Scrap metal licence plate initiative in Walsall
Since the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, there has been a drop in the number of licence holders in Walsall by as much as three quarters. In addition, thefts of metal in the West Midlands hit a three year high in 2021. While the two issues may not be related, the leader of the council, Cllr Mike Bird, wanted to take action to tackle unlicensed scrap collectors.
A new initiative has been introduced whereby licensed scrap metal collectors are provided with a bigger, more visible identification plate that can be placed on their collection vehicles. The council has allocated funding to provide these licence plates free of charge. The scheme is voluntary; however, it has proven popular with licensed collectors.
The new licence plates have helped residents across the borough to easily identify whether a collector is licensed. It has also made enforcement against unlicensed scrap metal collectors easier for the council and its partners and has reduced the number of times licensed collectors are pulled over by the police and other partners for inspection, which in turn has improved relationships with the licensed trade.
- Enforcement against an unlicensed scrap metal dealer in Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent City Council worked closely with officers from Staffordshire Police to participate in co-ordinated action to tackle metal theft, as part of the British Transport Police’s ‘metal and waste crime week’ campaign in 2021. The council, police and other partners visited numerous premises to search for stolen metal and examine dealer’s financial records to ensure they were complying with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. In addition, a number of vehicles carrying waste and scrap metal were also stopped to check they had the correct licence and to gather intelligence.
Through this work, intelligence suggested a scrap metal site may be operating without a licence. The council and police visited the site and found it was unlicensed and did not have the correct waste transfer documents. The site was closed, and the owner of the scrap metal site was taken to court and given a fine of £400, as well as being issued with £400 of court costs and a £40 victim surcharge.
Once a scrap metal dealers’ licence is granted, the council generally visits the site within three months of the licence being issued to check licence conditions are being complied with and to give the site advice if any issues are found. If issues are found, the council will visit the site again within four to six weeks to ensure improvements have been made. The council works closely with partners, such as the Environment Agency and the police, to ensure sites are complying with their licence conditions.