INDEPENDENT 2024-06-10 09:13:33


‘Vehicle vultures’ stripping family cars as demand for parts surges

“It was like some sick joke,” said a Midlands father, thinking back to the third time his car was stripped for parts in full view of his home.

On the first two occasions, thieves had pulled off the bonnet, lights and front bumper of his Toyota Yaris, parked up on the street in leafy Harborne, Birmingham.

Told the so-called “car cannibals” were after external parts from budget cars, the man, in his 50s, upgraded.

But within a week of parking his new £23,000 Kia Niro in the same spot, that too was targeted – although this time the thieves fled when disturbed by a neighbour.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said the man, who does not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

“It was like someone was watching me. It made me feel unsafe, living in my area, and even question having another car.”

He now pays to park his vehicle off-road, while coughing up £1,200 more on his insurance premium.

Last year, the BBC reported on a spate of incidents across Birmingham, with nine in Digbeth in one month alone, while others occurred in a city centre car park.

Earlier this year, Birmingham City Football Club was forced to alert supporters after fans’ vehicles were hit while they watched their team.

Among them was Chris Pugh, who was landed with an £1,800 insurance excess bill after the bumper and bonnet were nicked from his Vauxhall Corsa.

His insurance company wrote off his £13,000 vehicle, and he has since upgraded to a Vauxhall Crossland. His insurance premium has nearly trebled.

”It hits you hard and you feel personally targeted,” the 35-year-old told The Independent. “It puts you out of pocket and inconvenience. We will never leave the car in the city centre again.”

Classified as “car stripping”, the offence involves ripping off external parts from cars parked in city centres, outside homes and even at hospitals, sometimes in broad daylight.

It can take just a few minutes for the thieves, who sell their haul online or to backstreet garages.

Insurance experts, including Henry Topham, managing director for UK retail at Allianz Insurance, told The Independent the crime is being fuelled by a shortage of car parts and high prices. The average cost of a fire and theft claim rose by 34 per cent between 2022 and 2023.

While cars have traditionally been stolen whole, Detective Superintendent Jim Munro, from West Midlands Police, told said better policing intelligence on “chop shops” led to offenders stripping vehicles in public to reduce the risk of being caught.

The officer, who leads a specialised vehicle crime operation as part of a new neighbourhood team, said the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine were factors in the shortage of parts, with many manufactured in eastern Europe.

“We see all types of vehicle get stolen and get stripped, as requirements dictate,” said Det Supt Munro, who added that the criminals were “savvy”, researching the parts in demand.

The force is raising crime awareness among owners of targeted vehicles, as well as talking to Birmingham-based manufacturers about security measures.

Det Supt Munro said there has been success in catching the suspected criminals. In one raid on a chop shop earlier this year, officers arrested a 45-year-old over multiple car stripping offences. He faces three charges of theft from a motor vehicle and is due to stand trial in July.

The force says there were almost 4,000 fewer victims of vehicle crime over the past year in the region, compared to the year before – down 12 per cent.

But specific data on car stripping incidents is not available as it comes under the umbrella “theft from a vehicle”. The latest national crime survey data suggests one in five such incidents now involves exterior fittings being taken.

Of 145,000 recorded offences of theft from a motor vehicle in England and Wales between April and December 2023, just 1.2 per cent resulted in a charge or summons, according to Home Office figures. In the West Midlands, the rate was slightly better, at 1.8 per cent.

Det Supt Munro said: “We are assisted by the public – CCTV and door bell cameras – and what we are doing in the West Midlands; there are officers engaged in investigating this type of crime, they understand the trend, they know people who we believe to be responsible… and we are able to use that information to help shape our policing activity to give the best possible response to our communities.”

However, more needs to be done to support police in areas like Birmingham, says Edgbaston MP Preet Gill.

A Labour candidate for the 4 July election, she says her party’s pledge to put 13,000 extra neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat will help forces tackle car stripping.

“It is impacting people’s everyday lives and there is frustration over it continuing to happen,” she said.

Independent car dealers have also been targeted, with traders waking up to find vehicles on their forecourt damaged.

Umesh Samani, chairman of the Independent Motor Dealers Association, saidhe has heard of stolen headlights being sold on websites such as eBay for up to £2,500, with some repurposed to growing cannabis plants.

He said: “The reality of the situation is that most of these are committed by organised criminals, the gangs work at such speeds to dismantle cars within a very short time especially when vehicles are parked in vulnerable areas.”

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “It’s sad that ‘vehicle vultures’ are increasingly targeting public car parks, stripping cars of valuable parts to sell for a quick buck.”

The association urges motorists to use car parks under the Park Mark scheme accredited by police for security, and to leave vehicles near CCTV cameras.

The Home Office said it is working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to offer “enhanced intelligence capability” to target the crimes, adding that former policing minister Chris Philp met with West Midlands Police in May to discuss vehicle crime.

Centrist Israeli minister Benny Gantz quits Netanyahu’s war cabinet

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s three-person war cabinet, announced his resignation on Sunday, arguing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made “total victory impossible” in Gaza and should put the return of an estimated 120 hostages “above political survival.”

“Netanyahu prevents us from moving forward to a real victory [in Gaza],” Gantz said in a televised statement Sunday, calling the choice a “complex and painful decision” leaving him with a “heavy heart.”

He also called for early elections to “establish a government that will win the trust of the people and be able to face challenges.”

The Israeli prime minister called on Gantz to remain in the emergency coalition.

“This is the time for unity and not for division. We must remain united within ourselves in the face of the great tasks before us,” he wrote, originally in Hebrew, on X. “I call on Benny Gantz – do not leave the emergency government. Don’t give up on unity.”

In May, Gantz, a centrist former military leader and opposition leader, threatened to resign by June 8 unless Netanyahu put forward a new plan for ending the war, returning the hostages, unseating Hamas and establishing peace and security in Gaza with Palestinian and international cooperation.

He briefly delayed an announcement on his plans, originally set for Saturday, after Israel rescued four hostages from Hamas in a dramatic operation that’s estimated to have killed more than 270 Palestinians.

The resignation does not affect Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which retains 64 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

However, the decision leaves the war cabinet with no members of an opposition party.

Both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are members of the right-wing Likud.

Netanyahu is under increasing domestic pressure to end the war.

Tens of thousands of Israeli’s have been filling the streets for regular protests, calling for the immediate return of hostages and a ceasefire.

Members of his right-wing coalition, however, have threatened to pull out of his government if Netanyahu accepts a ceasefire proposal publically touted by the White House, a three-stage agreement including a ceasefire, a prisoner swap, and the pullback of some Israeli military forces in Gaza.

Modi sworn-in as India’s prime minister for third term

Narendra Modi took the oath of office on Sunday to become India’s prime minister for a third consecutive term, extending his leadership for the next five years albeit with a diminished grip on power after an electoral setback.

President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of Mr Modi, followed by the swearing-in of top federal ministers at the presidential palace in the capital Delhi.

Thousands of guests, including foreign heads of countries from seven of India’s neighbourhoods and top Bollywood celebrities, marked their presence at the ceremony in Delhi.

Maldives president Mohamed Muizzu, Sri Lanka’s Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina were among the leaders who took the front seats after landing in Delhi on Sunday.

Nepal’s prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Bhutan’s leader Tshering Tobgay and prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, were also welcomed in Delhi.

Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony marks the beginning of his third five-year term, making him the second prime minister in India after Jawaharlal Nehru to lead the country for three consecutive terms.

“Honoured to serve Bharat,” Mr Modi posted on X/Twitter, minutes before he was sworn in, referring to India’s name in Indian languages.

His third term holds significance as it is the first one in which he is relying on a fragile coalition with partners who are not averse to switching support after Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to win a majority in an electoral setback.

The BJP won only 240 seats, less than 272 seats required by any political party to form a government, making Mr Modi dependent on the BJP-led alliance National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that won the most number of seats.

The NDA coalition got 293 seats, some 61 ahead of the opposition INDIA alliance led by the Congress party.

Mr Modi, who had made the boisterous claim of his party winning 400 seats in a sweeping victory, was forced to cut rushed deals with regional allies who gained prominence as “kingmakers” for giving support to the party.

A new cabinet has also been sworn in and includes many new faces while retaining some of the major figures from his previous cabinet in the heavyweight portfolios.

Mr Modi was followed by senior ministers in the previous government: Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and Piyush Goyal, among others. Their portfolios are expected to be announced after the swearing-in.

The decision on the new cabinet came after an 11-hour-long meeting at the prime minister’s residence on Saturday in the presence of strategist Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda.

Ahead of the highly anticipated swearing-in ceremony, Mr Modi visited and paid homage to freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial Rajghat in Delhi.

He paid tribute to former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and visited another BJP stalwart, LK Advani, at his residence.

In the afternoon, Mr Modi also invited members of parliament who are part of the new cabinet, dubbed as “Modi 3.0” in Indian media. He hosted a high tea at his residence and interacted with the ministers.

The surprising election results upended widespread expectations before the vote. The populist leader has been accused by critics of leading the country with politics of polarisation and using all the power levers, including state agencies, at his disposal to target his critics.

Analysts have said it is uncharted territory for Mr Modi who has always led governments with a majority even during his time as Gujarat chief minister while singularly enjoying the spotlight and relevance.

The politics of coalition does not fit in well with “Modi’s brand of assertive and go-it-alone politics”, said Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute.

“These results show that the Modi wave has receded, revealing a level of electoral vulnerability that many could not have foreseen,” said Mr Kugelman.

Two regional stalwarts N Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United)’s emerged as kingmakers after they were courted by the BJP to form the government.

These leaders have already put forth demands, including changes in contentious laws, and more funds for their states and federal cabinet positions during negotiations on forming a new coalition government.

While Mr Modi has embarked on the third term with the new government it is to be seen how the leader will navigate the pulls and pressures of a coalition government.

Future PM must focus on EU to fix Brexit damage, says business group

The next UK government should focus on a better trading relationship with the EU after Brexit costs made exports more difficult, one of the country’s most influential business groups has said.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FBS) published its election manifesto on Friday, citing “stronger trade relations with the UK’s major trade partners, including the EU” as one of its priorities.

Martin McTague, national chair of the FSB, said Britain’s decision to leave the EU has impacted some small businesses negatively if exporting to the EU.

He told The Independent: “What we are seeing in specific areas is a really big drop-off for exporters…

“Location is very important and a lot of small businesses don’t have the resources to take on the distant markets. Vicinity is important. A lot of them have been put off by the additional burden that Brexit has caused.”

Asked whether improving relations with the EU was important, he said: “I think that’s much more important to the small business community. The larger businesses have got the capacity and resilience and resources, frankly, to weather whatever storms are out there and deal with the problems.

“And they are prepared to up sticks and move to the continent, whereas that is not an option for most small businesses. So having a better trading relationship is important.”

Mr McTague said that although an improved relationship with the EU is “slowly emerging”, his organisation would like any incoming government to “put more emphasis on that”.

Previously released research from the FSB showed that almost one in 10 small firms that used to export or import goods has stopped doing so in the past five years, in part due to costs, the volume of paperwork, and supply chain or logistical issues.

The FSB’s manifesto also calls for a future government to reform business rates and enshrine in law measures to clamp down on big businesses with poor payment practices towards smaller suppliers.

In addition, the group wants to improve small businesses’ access to finance and secure a 33 per cent statutory public procurement target for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

A survey by the FSB found that 96 per cent of small business owners intend to vote but 20 per cent have yet to decide for which party. 33 per cent have a good idea for whom they will vote, but could still change their mind.

The top concern for small businesses is that any future government will raise taxes, according to the survey.

The FSB’s policy chair, Tina McKenzie, said: “Small business owners and the self-employed are a shrewd and motivated part of the electorate.

“They’re used to weighing up competing offers when running their businesses, and it’s clear from our research that when it comes to the election they’re looking for which of the parties has the most compelling pro-small business offer.

“Small businesses are the key to securing economic recovery, driving innovation, and creating jobs in all parts of the UK.

“Our small business manifesto sets out the measures needed to create the conditions for that to happen, many of which do not involve additional spending.

The Independent previously reported that Brexit is leaving a hole of almost £100bn in annual UK exports, making Britain’s economy worse off than it would have been, had it remained in the European Union.

Blondie’s Chris Stein on Debbie Harry and a life of love and loss

If you want to make Chris Stein laugh, ask him how he feels about the latest view that New York City has become nearly as violent today as it was when his band Blondie emerged from its sooty streets in the 1970s. “That’s crazy!” Stein, now 74, says with a snort. “You know how today you can have that Citizen app on your phone that tells you the bad things that are going on in your neighbourhood? If you had one of those things in the New York of the Seventies and Eighties, it would be like turning on a faucet. You’d never hear the end of the mayhem.”

Small wonder parts of Stein’s riveting new memoir, Under a Rock, read as much like a crime novel as a musical biography. Like the day in 1975 when he and girlfriend Debbie Harry casually stumbled across a corpse in the doorway of the dilapidated building they lived in on the Bowery. “Some poor bastard had frozen to death on the street,” Stein says now.

Or the night he was walking across the Manhattan Bridge when he saw a young man sprawled on the pavement, dead from a gunshot to the head. “I kept going and never found out what had happened,” Stein says. Or the several times he chatted amiably with Daniel Rakowitz, who later became infamous for chopping up his girlfriend and storing her rotting skull in a plastic bucket of kitty litter. “He seemed like an OK guy to me,” Stein says with a shrug.

Jet2 Costa Dorada! Win a seven-night stay at Ohtels Villa Dorada

With a buffet restaurant, two pools and a jam-packed entertainment schedule – and plenty of Mediterranean sunshine – Ohtels Villa Dorada a family fave. After a busy day getting stuck into all the activities, the well-equipped rooms are waiting to welcome you. This hotel’s hit the location jackpot too, just a short stroll to the beach and Salou resort centre. You’ll also have Spain’s largest theme park nearby! Prepare to be in prime position for exploring this sunny slice of Spain. Why not check out the illuminated fountain or take a seaside stroll?

Enter now for your chance to win a seven night stay at Ohtels Villa Dorada for a family of four.

If you are unable to view the entry form, click here

Terms and Conditions

Promotion closes at 23.59 on 17th June 2024. The winner will be the first entry drawn at random after the closing date.

1. Entrants to this prize draw must be residents of the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and must be aged 18 years or over. Employees and officers of Jet2holidays Limited, Jet2.com Limited, Jet2 plc or any companies within the same group or any organisation professionally involved with the prize draw (or in each case, their close relatives) are not eligible to enter. An entrant may only be entered into the prize draw once. The Prize

2. The winner will win: (a) A 7-night Jet2holiday on a Bed and Breakfast board basis, in a standard double room, at the 3-star Ohtels Villa Dorada, Costa Dorada for 2 adults and 2 children (up to the age of 12). (b) The prize includes return flights from any of the UK bases from which Jet2holidays fly directly to Reus Airport (REU) and allows the duration of the prize advertised.

The prize also includes private transfers to and from the overseas airport and the hotel, a 22kg hold-baggage allowance per person on each flight. (c) If the winner opts to book, this holiday must be booked by 08/07/2024 and travel to and from the destination must be completed between one of the following bands subject to availability (including all return travel):

i. 11/06/2024 – 18/07/2024

ii. 29/07/2024 – 12/08/2024

iii. 04/09/2024 – 18/10/2024

iv. 03/05/2025 – 22/05/2025

v. 03/06/2025 – 17/07/2025

vi. 28/07/2025 – 11/08/2025

vii. 03/09/2025 – 16/10/2025

3. The following is not included with the prize: Transfers to and from the airport in the UK; Spending money; optional flight/board/transfer/accommodation supplements; or travel insurance. Winners are advised to take out their own insurance.

4. If a prize is not booked by the applicable date, it will be deemed forfeited and Jet2holidays reserves the right to award a prize to another randomly selected entry.

5. The prize is subject to these terms and conditions (“Prize Terms”) and the Jet2holidays’ and Jet2.com’s terms and conditions (together the “Terms and Conditions”) which can be found at http://www.jet2holidays.com/terms-and-conditions and http://www.jet2.com/terms respectively. The holiday shall not constitute a ‘package’ under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 (the “Regulations”) and the Regulations shall not apply, nor shall the applicable provisions of the Terms and Conditions which relate to the Regulations. In the event of any conflict between the Terms and Conditions, and these Prize Terms, these Prize Terms will take precedence.

6. Prize flights are limited on the flights operated by Jet2.com and may be unavailable even if there is general availability on a particular flight.

7. Jet2holidays reserves the right to amend or cancel the flights or holiday for any reason without prior notice (which may include substituting the prize or any element of the prize with alternative dates/property/transfers/destinations at any time, to the equivalent prize value).

8. Please note that flight schedules are not guaranteed.

9. The prize and each element of the prize is non-transferable and may not be exchanged for cash. The prize may only be taken by the prize draw winner along with any accompanying passenger(s) notified to Jet2holidays in the relevant booking, subject to the maximum number of passengers specified within the prize details. Flights must be taken by all passengers at the same time from the same airport. Once you have made your booking this cannot be amended.

10. The prize duration may not be extended and no element of the prize may be changed by the winner. Additional passengers outside the maximum amount permitted in the prize details may not be booked onto the prize booking.

11. All passengers must have a valid passport to travel, and must meet all relevant visa and/or other entry requirements including any medical/health screening requirements or similar. General:

12. Entrants’ details will be used to administer the prize draw and award the prize. Details will be used in accordance with the Jet2holidays privacy policy (see https://www.jet2holidays.com/privacy-policyhttp://www.jet2.com/privacy).

13. [When entering the prize draw entrants will be invited to opt in to receiving marketing from Jet2holidays. If entrants choose to opt in, their details will be retained by Jet2holidays for the purposes of marketing (which may include activities such as passing on information about deals, offers and promotion codes from Jet2holidays).]

14. Where Jet2holidays makes any changes to the prize (including dates of travel), no compensation or cash equivalent will be available. Jet2holidays will not be liable for any cancellations or changes to the prize draw or any prize, or for any loss or damage entrants or accompanying passengers suffer as a result of entering the prize draw provided that nothing in these terms shall exclude or limit the liability of Jet2holidays in relation to personal injury or death caused by Jet2holidays negligence or for fraud.

For full terms and conditions visit www.jet2holidays.com/promotions

For further information, please write to Customer Care, The Independent, Alphabeta, 14-18 Finsbury Square, London, England, EC2A 1AH. Promoter: Jet2holidays.

Labour and the Tories must stop avoiding the difficult issues

When the political parties unveil their manifestos this week, they have an opportunity to engage voters who have not yet tuned into the election and might not do so. Worryingly, a survey by Techne UK for The Independent found that 20 per cent of people have already decided not to vote, and some experts think we might see the lowest turnout in modern history.

That would not be a surprise given that many voters have written off Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives but have not yet been won over by Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. Labour’s 20-point opinion poll lead has encouraged Sir Keir to run a safety-first campaign. So far, the Tories appear to be appealing to their core vote to limit the scale of the defeat they expect on 4 July, rather than talking to the whole country.

Naturally, all parties want to play to their strengths and attack their opponents’ weaknesses. But this has resulted in a very narrow election agenda, contributing to a lack of excitement about the election and the absence of much hope for a better future. The manifestos offer the parties a chance to have a more honest conversation with the public about the huge challenges facing the next government. If they take it, more people would probably turn out on 4 July, which would be a good thing.

Rishi Sunak’s welfare reforms: what is the prime minister promising?

Rishi Sunak has promised to halt the spiralling benefits bill by reforming the welfare system if he wins the election.

The prime minister believes he can save £12bn a year by the end of the next parliament by getting more benefit claimants back to work.

He is proposing a mix of expanded support for those with poor mental health and tighter sanctions for those not seeking work.