Police clamp down on illegal car washes in Suffolk

Cars being washed at a car wash

Suffolk police is clamping down on illegal car washes in the county (stock picture) - Credit: PA/File/For Illustrative Purposes  

Car washes in Suffolk not following environmental and employment laws need to improve or they will be closed down, Suffolk police has warned. 

A number of car washes in the Ipswich and Sudbury areas have been identified as potentially breaking the law following visits from the Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS). 

The RCWS - which was formed in 2018 to raise standards and promote compliance across the country - says the car wash sector has consistently been identified as an industry where workers are at risk of exploitation. 

Suffolk Constabulary is working with the RCWS to clamp down on illegal car washes in the county, with signs being seen at bus stops and on bus sides during March and April. 

Plans have been lodged to install a hand car wash at Axminster Tesco. Photo: Getty Images

The car wash sector has consistently been identified as an industry where workers are at risk of exploitation (stock picture) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Detective Inspector Matt Bodmer, from Suffolk Police, said: “We are very pleased the RCWS has taken the initiative to conduct visits in our area.

"Its code of conduct clearly lays out the responsibilities of car wash businesses and we are working together to ensure that those not complying with the law clean up their act or are closed down.”

The RCWS said many illegal car washes operate from unsuitable premises that discharge dangerous effluent into water courses and staff are given ineffective protective equipment when handling dangerous and corrosive cleaning materials.

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Legitimate businesses are often undercut by those breaking the law, creating an unfair competitive landscape, the RCWS added. 

Teresa Sayers, managing director of the RCWS, said: “Having visited the sites, it is evident that there are serious breaches of regulations taking place and standards urgently need to be improved.

"We ask car owners and drivers to choose responsible car washes that offer a fair wash. That means ones that look after their workers, protect the environment, care for their customers and trade legally.”

People can be on the alert by downloading The Safe Car Wash app - which asks a series of questions related to signs of modern slavery. 

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Tim Passmore, Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, said: “I would urge all car wash customers to consider very carefully where they go to have their vehicles cleaned. 

“Unfortunately there remains a number of criminal and unscrupulous operators who use forced labour and/or illegal immigrants to support their activity.

"These ‘employees’ are often domiciled in appalling conditions and trapped in this horrendous way of life. It is so important for customers to only use the service provided by companies that trade legally to stop this exploitation of vulnerable workers.

“I have called for an accreditation scheme for car washes and completely support the RCWS, and hope criminal operators are prosecuted and punished accordingly.”