Birmingham votes to press ahead with by-law to control face-to-face

Local authority rejects a proposal to enter into a site-management agreement with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association

Street fundraising

Birmingham City Council’s licensing committee has voted to proceed with a by-law that would allow it to fine street fundraisers that cause "obstruction or annoyance" up to £500.

At a meeting of the licensing committee on Wednesday, councillors on the Labour-run authority voted to press ahead with plans to introduce the law, which would apply to face-to-face fundraisers in Birmingham.

They rejected a proposal to instead draw up a site-management agreement with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.

Papers published ahead of the meeting said the by-law was an attempt to prevent face-to-face fundraising carried out "in such a manner as to cause obstruction or give reasonable grounds for annoyance to any person in that street or public place. The by-law does not attempt to ban the practice outright as it is recognised that charities have a legitimate need to raise funds and that millions of people throughout the UK donate to charity on a regular basis.

"Instead, the by-law addresses the nuisance of inconsiderate face-to-face fundraising, which is what leads to complaints."

The penalty for breaching the by-law would be a maximum fine of £500.

Gareth Moore, a Conservative councillor and member of the licensing committee, said the meeting was sometimes heated as councillors debated whether to try working with the PFRA to regulate activity through a site-management agreement or pass the draft by-law to the council’s legal team.

After a casting vote by the chair it was agreed to push ahead with a by-law.

The council’s legal team will draft legislation that will be passed to the full council for consideration. It must then be approved by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, before the by-law can be introduced.

Moore said he had proposed that the council enter into a voluntary site-management agreement with the PFRA to try to address the problem.

"With the by-law we are talking about months if not years before it is enacted, whereas the site-management agreement could have been in place within weeks," he said.

The council began looking into a by-law after receiving complaints about street fundraisers in the city centre and retail centres in the suburbs, said Moore, and agreed in October 2012 to draft a by-law to "take out the aggressive elements".

Moore told Third Sector that when he discussed with officers the idea of working the PFRA, they were concerned that the charities fundraising in Birmingham were already members of the PFRA and should already be regulated.

Councillors at Wednesday’s committee meeting said they did not like handing control over to an outside organisation and some saw it as a form of privatisation, he said.

The PFRA has 65 site-management agreements with local authorities, which define fundraising conditions such as team size, frequency and site locations. It also introduced a fining regime last August.

Toby Ganley, the PFRA’s head of policy, said the face-to-face regulator had met Birmingham council officers in December to discuss the site-management agreement option after trying to speak to them over several years.

"We’re disappointed they would not work with us and we are disappointed that they want to use constituents’ money to regulate, or attempt to regulate, an activity we can regulate for them or with them for no cost," he said.

He said the PFRA was confident the Secretary of State would not approve the by-law.

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