LANCASHIRE was one of the worst five counties in the UK for scrap metal thefts last year, new figures have revealed.

But an East Lancashire MP said figures for this year are expected to fall following the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act last February.

Two years ago, police forces across England and Wales were ordered to start recording metal thefts rather than defining it in broader terms, such as burglary.

The first set of figures, released by the Home Office, show that between April 2012 and March 2013 there were 3,039 reports of metal theft in Lancashire – or 21 offences per 10,000 people.

Only Cleveland, Durham, South Yorkshire and Gwent recorded more offences out of 44 forces.

Cleveland recorded 25 thefts per 10,000, while in contrast Hampshire, Norfolk and North Yorkshire had the lowest overall rate with just three offences per 10,000 people.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act was already proving to be a success.

Trading with cash was outlawed, and dealers were required to apply for a licence in a bid to combat theft.

The Labour MP said: “I chair the all-party group on combating metal theft. The figures in Lancashire are horrendous, and it was important that the legislation changed.

“The latest figures suggest theft has already dropped by 40 per cent since the new legislation was passed.

“In Hyndburn, there are seven prosecutions planned, and a number of illegal collectors have been taken off the road.”

The latest Home Office figures are expected to be released later this year.