Rogue scrap metal dealers are being warned they face huge fines as new powers to combat theft have come into force.

Metal dealers without a licence to trade will also have their goods seized as the Government moves towards creating a register of all metal dealers.

The new powers come after the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 in October which requires all metal traders to obtain a license from their local authorities for the areas they operate in.

With the initial two-month registration period now over, councils and police can inspect the premises of those dealers who they suspect of illegal activity or who are trading without a licence. Authorities also have the power to refuse or revoke licences if a dealer is deemed unsuitable.

Inspector Jamie Checkland, West Midlands co-ordinator of the metal theft taskforce said: “These laws should see the rogue collectors eradicated from our streets.

“We should be able to trace the origin of everything that is taken as scrap meaning that thefts and illicit dealing should be a thing of the past.”

Since the financial crisis, the incidence of metal theft has rocketed, costing the economy an estimated £220 million a year. Common targets for thieves include railway tracks, church roofs, and war memorials.