Recently there have been several high-profile raids on unregulated hand car washes (HCW). In the largest, police raided hand car washes and 30 residential addresses in Milton Keynes. Officers found 36 "modern slaves", 13 people were arrested and large quantities of drugs were found. This confirms that government and the key agencies are following leads on human trafficking and slavery. However, the disappointing outcome was that at least two of these HCW were open again just days after being raided.
The Car Wash Association (CWA) is working closely with a major supermarket that has ceased all trolley washing on its car parks and is fully compliant with employment law, taxation payments and the environmental hazards of trade effluent disposal. The aim is to ensure all other multinational retailers become similarly compliant as quickly as possible. This work is also being overseen by the Gangmaster’s and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
PRA/CWA recently met Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, to bring the government’s attention to the tax evasion being systematically undertaken by HCW operators. It is estimated that with up to 20,000 HCW now operating across the UK, the government is missing between £700m and £1bn every year in unpaid business rates, VAT, NI and taxes.
The management of toxic trade effluent by HCW also needs much greater focus by Defra and the Environment Agency. Together human trafficking, slavery, tax evasion and environmental issues combine to make HCW a blight on our modern life which other EU countries just do not tolerate.
With the PRA, we have responded to a Public Accounts Committee consultation recommending that all HCWs need to be licensed to operate by their local authority.
On a personal note it is marvellous to see the CWA, which I helped to establish all those years ago, being given renewed impetus under the aegis of the PRA. I am confident that our lobbying will achieve the goal of proper regulation for all HCW in due course. Having written this column for longer than I dare to think, I will be handing over to the CWA next quarter.