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Councils told to ‘clamp down’ on high street fundraisers

Councils have been called on to take sensible steps to clamp down on high street harassment by fundraisers, but through negotiation rather than outright bans.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis MP has set out a ‘get-tough message’ on tackling so called fundraising ‘charity muggers’ or ‘chuggers’. He advised that local authorities should work with the voluntary sector to agree precisely how and where high street fundraising should be conducted.

He said: “British people gladly donate to charity in good faith, but aggressive fundraisers risk turning our high streets into an unwelcome gauntlet of bolshie bucket shakers and clip-board waving connivers.

“They ought to respect the public’s generosity and not jeopardise good charitable causes by becoming a public nuisance. Councils should be tough and rigid where this has got out of hand, but creating laws so that nobody can fundraise ever isn’t the way to do it.”

The minister has declined a request from Birmingham City Council to regulate all face-to-face fundraising in the city through a local byelaw. The byelaw had proposed that ‘no person shall in any street or public place’:

(a) advertise or solicit custom for any service; or

(b) seek to gather information for use in the supply of goods or services, in such a manner as to cause obstruction or give reasonable grounds for annoyance to any person in that street or public place; and

(c) seek to gather direct debit, standing orders or personal information for the purposes of fundraising for or on behalf of charities or any other activity.

It also had plans to introduce a £500 fine for any fundraiser whose behaviour caused obstruction or annoyance. However, Lewis stated that residents’ concerns can be properly addressed through dialogue with charities and the signing of formal local agreements that set out where and when fundraisers can operate. These agreements have proved successful elsewhere, he said.

In fact, Local Government Association research has shown that local agreements are working as the number of complaints about ‘chuggers’ has fallen in three-quarters of the areas they are in operation.

Recently, the 250th local agreement was signed by Canterbury City Council and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority (PFRA), which oversees the self-regulation of the industry.

Peter Hills-Jones, head of policy and communications at the PFRA, said: “We strongly welcome the minister’s call for more councils to sign site management agreements.”

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