Council leader Nick Forbes says 'aggressive' behaviour is giving charity a bad name
Newcastle City Council is considering by-laws to restrict the areas and times at which street fundraisers can operate in the city, the council leader has said.
Nick Forbes, leader of the Labour council, told Third Sector that street fundraising was an increasing problem for shoppers and businesses.
"I have done a number of walkabouts to look at the situation and the overwhelming view of shoppers was that they find some of the aggressive and emotive techniques of chuggers very off-putting," he said. "A lot of people feel it gives charity a bad name."
On a recent visit to the city’s main high street, said Forbes, he was stopped by street fundraisers five times in five minutes, with one of them yelling after him that he "looked like a young Jane Fonda".
Forbes said the council was considering introducing a by-law to limit collections to specific times and places. "Next week we will start the formal process of the first consultation stage of the by-law," he said. "Then we will need to make our case to the Communities and Local Government department."
He said the council was also writing to the government as part of the review of the Charities Act 2006, asking it to close a loophole that meant street fundraisers asking for direct debit details were not covered by the same regulations as cash collectors.
He said the council had also spoken to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association about setting up a site management agreement, which would help control where and when fundraisers could operate in the city. But Forbes said officers were "not very optimistic this will be suitable because the PFRA doesn’t cover all the organisations concerned".
Ian MacQuillin, the PFRA’s head of communications, said it was not aware of any street fundraisers who worked for organisations that were not PFRA members. He said the PFRA had met Newcastle City Council to discuss putting a site management agreement in place last October.
"They appear to have concerns about things like standards, and these are things we can help with," he said. "A site management agreement will be at no cost to them and they will have input into putting the agreement in place."
MacQuillin said the point of such agreements was to strike a balance between the rights of charities and the public.
"Fundraisers have a duty to be asking the public to support their charity," he said. "A by-law could not strike the right balance and charity beneficiaries could suffer because of it."
The PFRA has 41 site management agreements with local authorities across the country, he said, with a further 18 in various stages of negotiation. MacQuillin said the PFRA had sent emails and messages to Newcastle City Council but so far it had not responded.