Council chiefs have called on David Cameron to speed up reforms to the scrap metal industry – including a ban on cash payments to sellers – to combat an epidemic of thefts, including of a sculpture by Wakefield-born artist Barbara Hepworth from a south London park.
Hepworth’s estate yesterday pledged a £4,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the thieves, adding to the £1,000 already offered by Southwark Borough Council.
The bronze sculpture – insured for £500,000 – was removed from its plinth in Dulwich Park overnight on Monday and it is believed the thieves may be planning to melt it down for its scrap value.
It was the most high-profile of a wave of metal thefts driven by soaring world prices for metals like copper and bronze, which has also seen war memorials, phone lines and railway wiring targeted by thieves. Southwark’s main political parties yesterday joined in appealing to the Prime Minister to put in place tough new regulations to end “unscrupulous practices” in the scrap metal trade.
A letter to Mr Cameron, signed by the council’s Labour leader Peter John, Lib Dem leader Anood Al-Samerai and Conservative Lewis Robinson, said: “We believe there should be much tougher regulation of the industry including a ban on cash payments to sellers and a requirement that dealers keep a log of sellers’ details.”