Town banishes charity muggers

Burnley streetJohn Giles/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Burnley Council has banned charity muggers from the town centre every day except Tuesday and Thursday, after shoppers lost patience with their high-pressure tactics on behalf of charities.

So why did they take this step, and will this approach be coming to a high street near you?

Chuggers

Charity muggers (or chuggers) is the less-than-polite term for charity workers who approach people on the street to encourage them to sign up to a regular direct debit to a charity. They are a familiar sight on local high streets across the country.

Rather than working for the charity directly, in most cases these workers are employed by agencies which are paid according to how many people they can sign up for a given charity on a particular day. They are trained negotiators, and are not afraid to pile on the pressure in order to get someone to sign up to a regular donation.
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Burnley

In Burnley, there were concerns that because the chuggers set up camp on one particular part of St James Street, shoppers were avoiding the area, which was harming business for the shops on that part of the road.

Councillor Charlie Briggs, the leader of Burnley Council, is quoted in the Telegraph as saying: "We know a number of shoppers had started to avoid parts of St James Street, having been repeatedly approached by charity collectors operating in the area in the past." Briggs also highlighted that the Council has been striving to find a reasonable "balance" in letting charities fundraise directly with the public without being seen as a "nuisance".

So will this approach spread?

Burnley is not the first council to take steps. The Public Fund Raising Association - the body that regulates face-to-face fundraising - has worked with 41 councils so far in order to put agreements in place limiting the activities of chuggers, including city centres in Leeds and Sheffield.

Manchester City Centre is bringing in a similar code at the end of February, after complaints abut aggressive chuggers. They will be limited to fundraising on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and will be able to operate in four designated zones. Each zone will have no more than five fundraisers in it at any time, and there will be an email address where people can report any problems with chuggers.

The PFRA is also working with 18 more councils, so controls are gradually spreading, and may soon be coming to a street near you.

The trouble is that these codes are voluntary. The councils are working with charities in order to encourage them to abide by them, and the hotline should help. However, if a chugging agency is close to a deadline and far from a target, you have to ask whether they will care about a voluntary code of conduct, or whether it will be over-ruled by their bottom line.

But what do you think? Would you like to see limits in your area? Does this go far enough? Or should we lay off these vital charity collectors? Let us know in the comments.

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