Chuggers to face tough restrictions in Birmingham city centre
The activities of face to face charity fundraisers, known as ‘chuggers’, are set to be severely limited in Birmingham city centre.
The city council licensing and public protection committee is considering a clampdown following complaints from the public and retailers who claim people feel intimidated by the hard-sell tactics used by representatives of some of the country’s top charities.
Proposals would reduce by up to 70 per cent the activities of ‘chuggers’ in the city centre, including a total ban in Broad Street and Victoria Square.
At the moment teams of fundraisers, of up to six people, operate over seven city centre zones including Broad Street, Bull Street, Cherry Street/Union Street, Colmore Row, Corporation Street, High Street and New Street, which includes two zones.
In total, up to 42 fundraisers could be asking people to sign up to regular charity donations on any given day.
Under an agreement drawn up with the Public Fundraising Association, the number of zones where chuggers can operate will be reduced from six to four.
The proposals include:
- Reducing the number of fundraisers per zone from six to four
- No fundraisers to work on New Street on Wednesdays and Saturdays
- No more than three zones to operate on any given day
- Only two zones to operate on Wednesdays
- No neighbouring zones to operate on the same day
- Implementing a shorter zone in Corporation Street to avoid it overlapping with New Street
- Broad Street and Victoria Square no longer to operate as fundraising zones.
Chris Neville, Head of Licensing at the council, said there was a “high level of annoyance” among people using the central shopping area about being “constantly approached” by chuggers, while retailers felt trade was being hit because shoppers were reluctant to come into the city centre. Mr Neville added:
We recognise that charities are struggling to secure donations to enable the good work that they do to continue, especially in the current financial climate.
While the council doesn’t want to stop charities from engaging with potential donors, it must also balance the feelings of the general public who may feel intimidated and retailers who may have been adversely affected by face-to-face fundraising.
The PFRA’s proposed site management agreement does show a willingness to work in partnership with us to ensure charities can fundraise without detracting from other activities in the city centre, however it is hoped a further reduction can be agreed.
Attempts to introduce a by-law regulating the activities of chuggers were rejected by the Department for Communities and Local Government which urged the council to use the PFRA to reach a voluntary agreement.
A walking tour of the City Centre and Sutton Coldfield took place at the end of last summer with the PFRA, officers and elected members from the committee to identify the key areas of chugger activity.
More than 600 people responded to a council online survey, with 95 per cent saying they minded being stopped by chuggers and 93 per cent in favour of restricting face to face fundraising.
Peter Hills-Jones, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Association said:
Birmingham is a great city, proud of its heritage and its future. Our charity members understand this and want to ensure the city centre is somewhere residents and visitors alike feel is welcoming.
We have already established voluntary agreements with over 100 councils, which balance this with charities’ equal need to raise vital funds. I hope the city council approves this significant reduction so we can begin working to improve fundraising in the UK’s second city.
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