AFTER attracting 32,000 signatures in just four weeks, the government has shut down an official petition to combat the shocking rise in tool theft.
The petition launched by Simply Business, the UK’s leading provider of small business insurance to over half a million SMEs, called for greater fines for those convicted of tool theft and tighter regulations on the selling of second-hand tools.
Now, the digital broker has expressed its disappointment that the snap election is obstructing efforts to review and tackle the staggering increase in tool theft.
It was growing at an average of 1,000 signatures a day and at one stage was the fastest growing Government petition in the whole UK, at a time when British politics has been dominated by the Brexit debate.
However, Parliament’s decision to call a General Election on Thursday, 12 December has seen purdah swing into action, thus pausing Simply Business’ efforts to reach the goal of 100,000 signatures which would see the issue debated in the House of Commons. The sudden dissolution of Parliament meant that all live petitions were suspended not to be reopened so a number of burgeoning campaigns had their growing momentum immediately stopped.
Simply Business’ campaign aimed to highlight the growing tool theft epidemic, which is destroying the livelihoods of tradespeople up and down the country. One in three (37%) tradespeople have had their tools stolen, costing victims over £3,000 on average, and leaving the vast majority unable to work. A staggering 84% of tradespeople also don’t believe the government is doing enough to prevent tool theft.
With all of the data suggesting the problem’s only getting worse – tool theft related insurance claims have increased 54% in the last two years alone – there’s little sign of the issue going away.
Just seven days prior to the petition being taken down, the Government’s formal response to the petition reaching 10,000 signatures was to state it “has no plans to amend existing legislation” and “The Theft Act 1968 includes robust measures for dealing with crimes of theft and handling stolen goods, including tool theft.”
Numerous petitions have been launched to combat tool theft in the last 10 years, each ending with close to 30,000 signatures and marked by a political response which wouldn’t commit to any action. Simply Business’ petition was designed to build a coalition of stakeholders who would come together to try and end the scourge of tool theft that blights British tradespeople once and fall.
An alarming 84% of tradespeople also don’t believe the government is doing enough to prevent tool theft. Just under two thirds (60%) surveyed believe there needs to be greater sentences for thieves, while more than half (55%) believe there should be greater fines for those convicted and half of tradespeople believe there should be greater funding for police.
Bea Montoya, chief operating officer at Simply Business, commented: “The success of the stamp out tool theft petition within its first month reflects the significance of this widespread issue. With the frequency and cost of the crime on a continual rise, clearly there is a need to act. 84% of tradespeople feel the Government isn’t doing enough on this issue and at Simply Business we empathise with tradespeople.
“We’ve reached a stage in 2019 where a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK, with 1 in 3 tradespeople having had their tools stolen. For our customers in the trade, it’s far more than an inconvenience, the effects are devastating. Stolen tools removes their ability to earn a living.
“For the Government to state it has no plans to amend, or even review, 50-year-old legislation is a missed opportunity to find a solution to this growing crisis. How bad will things have to get before the Government acts?
“As we enter winter - the worst times of the year for tool theft - and with the upcoming general election, tradespeople simply cannot afford for this issue to once again slip down the political agenda. In the meantime, we will keep highlighting the facts related to this crime and continue sharing tips to prevent becoming a victim of tool theft, which is the least that our nation’s tradespeople deserve.”