CAR tax dodgers around Kirklees are in line for a crushing experience.
A gigantic crusher reduced four cars to smoking cubes of metal today, to herald the start of a four-day crackdown on untaxed vehicles.
In just 90 seconds, a family car can be reduced to a block of twisted metal, upholstery, rubber and glass, as was demonstrated outside Dewsbury Town Hall.
Earlier this year, Kirklees Council installed a new computerised link with the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority to make it easier to deal quickly with abandoned and untaxed cars.
"We are getting tough with the owners of unlicensed and abandoned vehicles," warned Clr David Payne, council Cabinet member for environment and transport.
Last year, the council received 2,600 reports of abandoned vehicles. Of those, 600 were towed away and destroyed.
Once an untaxed car is taken to a secure compound, the owner has just two weeks to pay a fine to get the vehicle back. If they do not, it will be crushed in scrapyards in Huddersfield or Dewsbury.
Under the fast-track computerised system burned-out cars are now removed straight away, wrecks within 24 hours and untaxed cars within 10 days.
An £80 fine is imposed on tax dodgers who pay up within 24 hours or £160 after that.
Costs for storing cars in a compound go up at a rate of £15 per day.
Owners also have to pay a surety of £300, which is returnable when they show a valid tax disc.
Crowds of onlookers gathered today to see the first of the cars, a Volkswagen, vanish into the jaws of the crusher, specially set up outside the town hall. With a pressure of 250 tonnes on each side, the hydraulic rams mangled the vehicle.
But the council has to take a hard line.
"It's an ever-increasing problem," said Rachel Wood, of the council's environmental services department. "Scrapyards aren't offering money to people who drive in with a wreck."
Instead, owners dumped old bangers.
"People just think it's easier for the council or police to deal with," she added.
The council recognised the importance of removing abandoned vehicles quickly because they posed a danger to children playing in them.
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