The collections company Clothes Aid, which carries out door-to-door clothing collections on behalf of charities, has called for a national licensing system for charitable collections.
Clothes Aid, which operates by retaining a percentage of the profits after the clothing is sold, made the recommendation in its written submission to the Public Administration Select Committee’s inquiry into the regulation of the charitable sector and the Charities Act 2006.
The company said local authorities should not be able to set their own systems for licence applications and a unified system should be introduced.
"Many councils have straightforward licensing application processes, but around one third (circa 140 councils) have their own very different policies," says its evidence to PASC. "The most challenging of these are Birmingham and St Albans councils, both with differing but equally difficult positions."
Clothes Aid said national exemption orders, which are used by charities that carry out large numbers of doorstep collections, should be retained because not keeping them would increase the burden on charities, collectors and licensing authorities.
Charities, including the British Red Cross and the British Heart Foundation, and the Charity Retail Association and the Institute of Fundraising have also criticised Lord Hodgson’s proposal to abolish the orders.
Clothes Aid’s submission says: "The current licensing process requires a substantial resource to enable our operations to function. These include operational planning, making the actual application using the prescribed form, applying for certificates of authority (HMSO Green Badges), issuing permits to collectors and preparing return statements of accounts for each of the 1,200 permits and also exemption holder collections."
Clothes Aid says it spends between £100,000 and £150,000 a year on the licensing procedures, which reduces the amount that can be paid to charity.
Clothes Aid says that any issue of public nuisance related to doorstep fundraising is caused by bogus collections and not by legitimate organisations.
"Public perception is being damaged by lack of enforcement, bogus collectors and theft," it says. "If unregulated door-to-door collections were prevented and standards raised within the door-to-door collection sector, saturation levels would drop substantially and a lot of the concern from homeowners and potential donors would reduce concomitantly."