Metal thieves cause drain on resources

A SUDDEN spate of gully cover thefts could end up costing St Helens taxpayers more than £3,000.

Mindless thieves have stolen 10 roadside gully covers in Rainhill, Sutton. Bold and Thatto Heath in the last week - and have left Town Hall bosses counting the spiralling cost.

But council chiefs, who say each repair could cost them up to £330, insist each stolen grid would only make a small fraction of that - about £10 - if sold on as scrap.

Town Hall bosses say they simply don’t have the money to replace all the age-old gully covers with the modern ductile steel type, which are more difficult to pinch and to melt down.

Peter Wainwright, an assistant highways engineer with St Helens Council, told the Reporter: “The stolen gully covers are almost certainly going to be sold on as scrap. But our drainage advisor tells us that each cover would only make about £10. It’s hardly worth all that effort to steal them, is it?

“In contrast, each theft ends up costing the council hundreds of pounds. Just responding to each call out costs £40 during the day and treble that out of hours.

“Then we have to put a temporary plastic gully lid on, which is worth about £70, and to make a permanent repair, a new lid, frame and patch costs about £220.”

Town Hall chiefs say gully cover thefts have become increasingly common across the borough in recent years.

In 2009, for instance, more than 100 grids were stolen across St Helens.

Although the culprit was eventually caught, and some of the stolen gully covers were recovered, the repairs still ended up costing the council more than £5,000 that year.

Mr Wainwright added: “Every time somebody steals a gully cover it poses a danger to motorists and pedestrians too. Drivers could easily get a wheel stuck a gully when parking up in the dark and if a pedestrian accidentally stepped off the kerb into one we would be talking about a broken leg. Some of the gullys are about three feet deep.

“We would ask the people of St Helens to be vigilant. We’ve notified the police about this problem, who are keeping an eye on it for us, but our main concern is ensuring that there is no danger on our highways.”

If you see anyone stealing a gully cover you can report it to the council’s Contact Centre on 01744 456789 or to Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555 111.