Local authorities turn to orders to tackle face-to-face fundraising

At least four councils have used Public Spaces Protection Orders to crack down on what they see as 'aggressive' fundraising, but the PFRA says this is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut

Face-to-face fundraising
Face-to-face fundraising

At least four local authorities have turned to Public Spaces Protection Orders in recent months to tackle "aggressive" face-to-face fundraising in their areas, it has emerged.

The councils in question have taken up the orders, which prohibit specified activities – including overly persistent fundraising – from being carried out in certain areas, rather than signing up to site-management agreements with the Public Fundraising Association.

The orders do not prevent face-to-face fundraising being carried out but are designed to prevent activity that could be considered aggressive.

The PFRA said using the orders was like using a "sledgehammer to crack a nut".

SMAs enable authorities to regulate the number of fundraisers that can operate in their local areas and the times at which they are allowed to work.

Newport City Council in Wales and Swindon Borough Council in Wiltshire have both brought in PSPOs since last November, and Kettering Borough Council in Northamptonshire will hold a vote on bringing in such an order next month.

Newcastle City Council approved plans for a PSPO in principle in March and plans to formalise the move at the end of the summer.

Ed Foster, service manager for the environment and public protection at Newcastle City Council, told Third Sector last year that the council had spoken to the PFRA in the past about setting up an SMA, but it had not been deemed suitable because the PFRA was a voluntary membership body and charities and agencies that did not wish to be covered by its rules did not have to become members.

The council had considered introducing a by-law to control the behaviour of street fundraisers in 2012, but it was rejected by the Cabinet Office the following year.

A spokeswoman for the local authority said this week that it would be carrying out further consultation with Newcastle residents and businesses before bringing in the PSPO to ensure it was fully compliant with the law.

Anyone breaching the order – if introduced – will receive a £100 fixed-penalty notice, which could increase to £1,000 if it is not paid.

A spokeswoman for Kettering Borough Council said it had decided to introduce the measure rather than putting an SMA in place because of the "immediacy of being able to prevent action on the ground".

She said the order would enable council wardens and police officers to deal with people immediately if they contravened the order, which prohibits "assertive or aggressive" commercial or charity collections or soliciting for money on the street.

A spokesman for Newport City Council said it introduced a PSPO last November after receiving regular complaints from the public about the "persistent nuisance" of direct debit fundraisers in its city centre. The feedback was that they were annoying and difficult to avoid, he said, so they were now prohibited from approaching members of the public in a persistent manner.

He added: "The council recognises the work of the PFRA and remains willing to work with it to regulate the behaviour of fundraisers and to ensure that they act responsibility and do not contravene the terms of the PSPO."

A spokesman for Swindon Borough Council said that the PSPO the council brought in last December supplemented the work done by the town centre management company InSwindon, which managed charity collections in the town centre. He said he was not aware of the town having any agreement or relationship with the PFRA.

Mike Smith, head of public affairs at the PFRA and the Institute of Fundraising, said 90 per cent of councils that had implemented SMAs said they would recommend them.

"We don’t think PSPOs are right," he said. "It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

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