Hartlepool trading standards pledge to target rogue traders and scammers

From the left Ian Harrison, Lorna Hilton, of the councils Community Safety Team, and Inspector Mal Suggitt of Cleveland Police.
From the left Ian Harrison, Lorna Hilton, of the councils Community Safety Team, and Inspector Mal Suggitt of Cleveland Police.

Rogue traders and shops that sell alcohol to underage children are high on trading standards chiefs’ hit list for the year.

Hartlepool’s Trading Standards team has published its annual plan for 2016-17, setting out its top priority areas.

They include going after cowboy builders and scammers who can leave their victims thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Tackling illegal sales of alcohol and other age-restricted products to children also has highest priority, officials say it adds significantly to anti-social behaviour and poses a serious risk to young people’s health.

Sylvia Pinkney, head of public protection at Hartepool Borough Council, said: “We still receive high numbers of complaints in relation to rogue builders, predominantly where a vulnerable person has been approached to do work on their property.

“Numbers don’t seem to be decreasing, but increasing.”

She told how the council can provide hidden cameras to victims to help catch offenders.

And it has also launched a protocol with banks to contact police if any suspicious cash withdrawals are made.

Ms Pinkney added staff are having to respond to increasing cases of dodgy dealing over the internet and social media.

She told the council’s Regeneration Services Committee: “Officers are spending an increasing amount of time dealing with e-crime, sales on social media and the internet.”

Mail scams, counterfeiting and sales of illegal tobacco come under the plan’s medium priority heading.

Councillor Brenda Loynes told how her late mother-in-law received scores of letters purporting to be from foreign lotteries.

Ms Pinkney said it was an ongoing problem and the team is trying to raise awareness.

She added that the town’s 30th No Cold Calling Zone is ready to be launched.

Chair of the committee Coun Kevin Cranney said: “I think you are doing an excellent job. I think the priorities are right for this town.”