COUNCIL chiefs are aiming to crackdown on scams and rogue traders in Hartlepool after 126 complaints last year, with the majority impacting vulnerable and elderly residents.

Hartlepool Borough Council bosses have targeted rogue traders and scams and cons as ‘high priority’ issues over the coming year as part of their trading standards service plan.

The plan is to go before councillors on the neighbourhood services committee on Friday, October 16, with a number of high, medium and low-priority issues to address in 2020/21.

A report from Sylvia Pinkney, council assistant director for regulatory services, states ensuring product safety is the third ‘high priority’ issue for the plan, along with cracking down on scams and rogue traders.

She said: “Recent years have seen an increase in both the number and severity of incidents where vulnerable people have been scammed or been the victim of rogue traders calling on their doorstep.

“In 2019/20, a total of 126 complaints were received regarding scams or rogue traders.

“Most of these incidents involved elderly or vulnerable people. As such, both “Rogue Traders” and “Scams and Cons” will continue to be classified as high priority for 2020/21.”

Tackling rogue traders includes issues such as doorstep crime, cowboy builders and other types of scam, which can cost residents hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Council chiefs said they work with a number of agencies to help protect the vulnerable from this type of crime, while they also work to identify common scams and notify residents using media releases.

Work is also being carried out to continue to support vulnerable residents through implementing ‘No Cold Call Zones’ as a means of reducing the number of traders visiting people on their doorsteps, and providing ‘call blockers’ for phones.

Medium priority issues as part of the plan include tackling underage sales of alcohol and age restricted products, an area which has seen improvements in recent years, according to the report.

The council has seen a reduction in complaints from the general public over underage sales, dropping from 30 in 2015 to only 7 in 2019/20, leading to it being dropped from a high to a medium priority.

Council chiefs noted a significant investment of time and resources has been used over recent years to educate retailers about their obligations and the consequences of non-compliance.

This work is reflected in the results from test purchase exercises carried out in 2019/20 where no sales of alcohol were made to underage volunteers, compared to six sales of age restricted products in 2016.

Other medium priority issues include tackling counterfeiting products and illicit tobacco, and products sold with false descriptions which are deliberately or negligently misleading.

The report also notes the trading standards service is facing ‘significant challenges’ and a ‘changing environment’ due to the impact of Covid-19, which is expected to continue.

The neighbourhood services committee meeting will take place on Friday (October 16) from 10am and will be streamed via YouTube.