'Short-sighted' council policies increasing costs for charity shops, umbrella body warns

The Charity Retail Association says several councils have begun charging charity shops for services that were free

Charity shops 'face rising costs'
Charity shops 'face rising costs'

A rising number of councils are bringing in "short-sighted" policies that are leading to an increased financial burden for charity shops, the Charity Retail Association has warned.

The CRA said several councils had begun to charge charity shops for services that were previously free or substantially increase the charges for existing services. Some have also sought to profit from undertaking activities traditionally carried out by charity shops, it says.

According to the umbrella body, the British Heart Foundation is forecasting that it will lose £20,000 a year from new waste disposal charges due to be brought in by Wiltshire Council from September.

The charges, which the council hopes will raise £40,000 a year, will affect charities that visit civic amenities sites to dispose of the donated goods they cannot sell or recycle, according to the CRA. The charities have previously been able to dispose of this waste for free, the CRA said.

"This decision by Wiltshire is unfortunately the latest example in a long line of councils introducing short-sighted policies that pass costs to charity shops," said Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA.  

He said fears were growing that councils facing further cuts to their budgets would continue to pass cuts to charity shops, jeopardising the work they funded.

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Council said the policy change was necessary in order to reduce queues at recycling centres and make savings.

The CRA said Brighton and Hove City Council also recently stopped licensing clothing collection bins in the city to charities and took control of them itself, keeping any profits made by selling the donated items. 

"This had a huge impact on our local charity members such as Traid, which rely on donation bins," the association said in a statement.

The council did not comment in time for Third Sector’s deadline.

The CRA has also criticised Central Bedfordshire Council for introducing a policy in 2014 to collect resalable clothing and reusable electrical items from the public’s doorsteps, from which it makes a profit.

"The council has set itself up as a direct competitor to charity shops in a fight to get good quality donations of second-hand goods," said the association. "This has difficult repercussions for charity shops because it’s a lot harder to persuade people to take their second-hand goods into a charity store when they know the council will take it for free from their doorstep."

Councillor Budge Wells, deputy executive member for community services at the council, said: "As a council we actively encourage residents to give unwanted items to charity shops if at all possible, and the kerbside collection scheme is really for those people unable to do that." 

The CRA is also unhappy that Torbay Council increased its waste disposal charges to charities from £22 a tonne to the full commercial rate of £145 a tonne last year.

According to the CRA, this is having a crippling effect on the retail chain run by local charity Animals in Distress, which is being charged about £1,300 a month to dispose of unsellable items that have been left at its shops.

A spokeswoman for Torbay Council said it implemented this policy after the amount of rubbish left by some charities at the local waste disposal site doubled. "Due to budget cuts it was deemed unfair that council taxpayers should subsidise this increased activity," she said.

She said that the council had offered to work with charities to resolve any issues. 

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