Mayor’s anger over ‘charity muggers’

PUBLISHED: 08:54 18 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:37 18 August 2014

Chugger

Chugger

Archant

‘Intimidating’ charity fundraisers, urging residents to part with their bank details, should be licensed or leave town, says the mayor.

Charity street collectors – sometimes known as ‘charity muggers (chuggers)’ - are a regular feature of the Magnolia Centre.

And many shoppers have been seen avoiding the town centre instead of ‘running the gauntlet’, writes David Beasley.

But unlike ‘passive’ charity bucket collections, they do not need an East Devon District Council licence - so there is no way to control how many and where they are.

Now, following concerns by the public to the police and a report by Charity Aid, which says it is the most ‘damaging’ form of fundraising, Mayor Bill Nash is calling for them to be locally regulated.

He said: “I’m very protective of Exmouth’s citizens. They are a very generous lot, always giving to charity. I support collections using sealed buckets. What I don’t support are charities that don’t need a licence.

“On the street, it can be quite intimidating. Before you know it, you have signed up to a bank mandate.”

Licences, he said, would mean EDDC could say when and where the collectors operate. “It should apply to all charity collections,” said Mr Nash. “We must be able to exercise some kind of control.”

Ian MacQueen, the chairman of Exmouth’s Chamber of Trade, said people could be put off shopping.

“I am all for charities fundraising,” he said. “But their method is more like a business marketing exercise, and when people are being pestered, that is a different matter.

“There is a difference between charity supporters standing passively with a bucket and people being accosted on the street.”

The ‘chuggers’ code of conduct, issued by the Charity Commission, says they should not ‘pressurise or harass’ or use ‘manipulative techniques’.

Some councils, like Runnymede and Hartlepool, have banned them. Others, like Winchester, limit them to a day a month, while Bedford and East Cambridgeshire issue permits.

Peter Quinn, chairman of Charity Aid, said that 90 per cent of people were against the practice. Many charities hired firms to fundraise for them, taking over £100million a year from donations.

He said: “They’ve brought words like intimidation and hard sell into what used to be a noble calling. Volunteer groups are unanimous in opposing it.”

An EDDC spokesman said, because the collectors did not need a licence, the council had no direct influence over their activities.

He added: “We do ask charities to inform us when they are planning to operate in a town or shopping centre so we can ensure that only one charity operates at a time and that their activities do not clash with licensed flag days.”

Any complaints, he said, should be directed to the charity, the Charity Commission or the Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority (PFRA).

● What do you think? Should charity collections like this be banned or does the practice provide a much-needed service? Email exmouth.letters@archant.co.uk

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