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Case Study London Councils

Boroughs share benefits of Operation Scrap-It

Operation Scrap-It was a high profile project developed by London Councils. It successfully tackled the problem of abandoned vehicles during a two-year period, but was designed to develop partnerships that could go on reducing crime and disorder long-term.

In 2002/3, more than a third of England’s abandoned vehicles were in London. Already a costly business, disposing of vehicles was set to get more expensive as the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive increased the numbers abandoned.

London Councils set to work to speed up the removal of abandoned vehicles on behalf of the 33 councils in London – an approach that has now been taken up nationally. It also set to increase funding to tackle nuisance vehicles, train staff and promote legislation through the 8th London Local Authorities Act 2004.

£13.5m to change behaviour

The two-year project, part of the Government's Together campaign, received £13.5m from the Home Office Anti-social Behaviour Unit. It ran from October 1, 2003 to September 30, 2005, with the aim of changing public attitudes towards taxing vehicles and to getting rid of them responsibly.

"Local authority budgets would not have been able to attain or sustain the level of activity needed for the project. There were very practical benefits from working as a consortium, including being able to buy equipment, such as clamps, at bulk prices." - Colin Sims, Service Development Officer

One of the elements of the scheme was a free take-back service, signed up to by the London boroughs, who received £30 per vehicle from the London Councils funding. Boroughs offered either a designated disposal point or a managed collection scheme. A budget of £2.2m allowed for 73,000 vehicles to be disposed off throughout the life of the project.

A drop in vehicle licence evasion

"The project experienced more work at the beginning but then dropped off as people realised that the councils were taking action against the problem. DVLA experienced a drop in vehicle licence evasion that was greater in London than elsewhere in the country" - Colin Sims

Scrap-It also provided £9m for enforcement, complementing existing borough budgets for tackling abandoned and untaxed vehicles. Funds were prioritised for areas with the biggest problems.

A fast turnaround for vehicle removal was seen as an important element, but one that also called for storage space – something in short supply, especially in the north-west of the city. Funding was made available to provide temporary storage spaces in appropriate locations.

Various local authorities have continued to enforce against untaxed vehicles in addition to their activity against abandoned vehicles, to the extent that their budgets will allow since the project stopped.

Court prosecutions

Prosecutions were vital to ensure that the programme deterred offenders. London Councils recognised that abandoning a vehicle was not an easy offence to prove in court, but some boroughs demonstrated excellent practice.

Both the London Borough of Camden and the London Borough of Enfield had success in prosecuting registered keepers, although the scheme was aware that the financial implication of court cases limited what many boroughs could do.

Training courses on abandoned vehicles legislation and conflict management were run throughout March 2004, with separate courses geared towards the needs of managers, frontline staff and administrative staff. More than 150 people from all 33 boroughs attended the training.

"London Councils and the Home Office agreed a set of performance indicators, which London Councils reported on monthly. Boroughs had to report back promptly as funding was dependent on performance" - Colin Sims

Two-stage publicity campaign

The scheme set a budget of £300,000 for a two-stage publicity campaign. The first stage focused on the free take-back service and was kick-started by radio and other media, with the slogan If your car’s had it, we’ll have it. A website was developed and launched at the same time. Boroughs were provided with leaflets advertising the project and artwork so that they could do their own more local promotional work.

The campaign directed people to their local borough but also generated 908 telephone enquiries at the helpdesk in March and April. During the same period, there were 4,162 viewings of the website.

The second stage of the campaign, Bangers and Mash, officially launched the scheme and promoted the enforcement regime.

During the time of the Scrap-It campaign, vehicle licence evasion in London dropped by more than four per cent. Although some of the credit has to go to the DVLA’s introduction of continuous registration, the reduction was more noticeable in London than anywhere else in the country. This total drop meant an increase in income to the Treasury of around £22m.

For more information, please contact Colin Sims at