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SMDA and the cash ban - what’s been going on?

ELVs and the SMDA
The inclusion of our sector within the Scrap Metal Dealers Act has not gone quite to plan.
There seems to be much confusion about the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act for our sector, with some areas still failing to issue licences.

It’s important to understand who is responsible here. Local authorities are primarily in charge, but the police remain involved and there still appears to be widespread confusion over who does what exactly.

The police involvement goes back to before the introduction of SMDA for our sector due to metal theft. This led to Operation Tornado (scrap metal and scrap metal sites) and to the change in the law when responsibilities for licensing and compliance were given to the local authorities.

The local authority involvement has been poor to say the least, with many authorities failing to start licensing on 1st October last year. Many LAs did manage to issue licences before Christmas 2013, but also many didn’t. In fact, we are told that Birmingham City Council still hasn’t issued any licences. The December 1st start for compliance and enforcement was, in retrospect, more than a little optimistic!

Comment has been made that the volume of applications has, in some areas exceeded expectations and also that many unlicensed yards are still being found. Here at atfPro we can’t help thinking that no-one ever allows us month after month to not comply with legal requirements so it is rather galling when government bodies can just do things if and when it suits - let’s face it, none of this suits us but they are all keen to extract yet more money out of us for yet more red tape!

And that brings us to another point - the fee. There is 10 fold variation in fee levels up and down the country. The range is from £150 to £1200 for a single site. How can this be? It is extremely difficult to reconcile such a large cost variance nationally for what is supposed to be the same thing. Surely, if one authority can cover their costs at £150, the authority charging more than that must be looking to this for income generation.

The current state of play is that some LA’s have now started doing compliance checks. The police focus, which was initially targeted towards mobile collectors has had good response in those areas where they have been active and we are told that there have been significant drops in reported metal theft. The police are now turning their attention to vehicle dismantlers and salvage agents. Unfortunately, they have little understanding of these but have got the good sense to seek assistance of the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers’ Association, particularly with problems of distinguishing ‘used cars’ from ELVs!

Police have experienced repeated problems with salvage being purchased from auctions and then illegally dismantled. This supports concerns raised by MVDA several years ago. Future involvement of the police is uncertain as central funding for combating metal theft is being cut.

If you have any particular issues on this subject to report, please let us know.

August 2014

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