Metal theft is rising nationwide as thieves are attracted by the rising prices of scrap metal, costing local authorities millions as police reports indicate a surge in plumbers reporting pipe theft.

The raw material price of copper has risen by up to 38% in recent months.

A task force has been set up to deal with metal thefts in Wales, with action already being taken to deter thieves. Police forces are teaming with both local councils and the Environment Agency Wales to carry out joint operations that often involve spot checks at scrap yards and on vehicles carrying scrap metal.

The problem is widespread, but only when theft from local authorities is examined does the scale become apparent. Figures obtained by BBC Wales reveal that the Vale of Glamorgan council had £80,000 of copper cable stolen, while Swansea lost £50,000 in manhole covers that fetch between £200 and £300 each as scrap.

The figures, obtained from councils through a BBC Freedom of Information request, suggest metal thefts have cost Welsh councils more than £1.7m over four years.

Police in Southampton also warned plumbers to be on their guard for metal thefts last week, while police in Hertfordshire reported a rise in copper thefts in May.