Heavy cast iron fittings are thought to be particularly sought-after by thieves who have previously stolen manhole covers and railings.

A spokesman for Birmingham's roads and pavements contractor Amey confirmed the problem. "We have been made aware of the attempt to steal a lamp column," he said.

"Stolen lampposts and associated electrical cable are a major threat to the safety of members of the public and our workforce.

"Amey and Birmingham City Council are working hard to address this issue.

"We work in conjunction with West Midlands Police's metal theft unit to explore ways of preventing thefts like this and, each week, supply the force with a list of any stolen metal from the city's roads."

The company said it had been alerted to reports of attempted lamppost thefts by gangs wearing reflective jackets, but none had so far succeeded.

Lampposts are the latest target of metal thieves who have caused chaos across the country, targeting railway lines, war memorials and church roofs.

Rising metal prices have also led to the resurgence of rag and bone men on the region's streets, with reports last year suggesting a van-load of scrap metal could bring in £200 - up from £50 five years earlier.

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