Shops and business have backed council plans to ban charity collectors from Birmingham city centre and other major shopping parades.
The council has announced plans to develop a bylaw which will see so-called chuggers, or ‘charity muggers’, banned after a survey revealed that 83 per cent of visitors to the city centre claimed it was not only a nuisance but would put them off visiting.
Many leading charities use the tactic as a fund-raising source, but a growing number of residents and businesses have complained about the repeated and sometimes aggressive approaches to passers by.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce spokesman John Lamb said: “Clearly there is a delicate balance to be struck here. The last thing business needs is for people to be deterred from spending their money in the city because of this.
“If that is happening then a ban may be appropriate. But the people doing this should listen to the public and cool their methods appropriately.”
The council’s investigation into the problem was prompted by complaints from Retail Birmingham, the organisation representing city centre shops and businesses.
Last year chairman Jonathan Cheetham vowed to deal with the issue. He said: “We will continue to tackle street nuisances to enhance visitors’ emotional experience when in the city.
“By reducing the number of ‘human signs’ and charity data collectors we can create a world-class walking environment that ensures footfall remains high and Birmingham keeps its place as one of the top shopping destinations in the UK.”
The council agreed to look into the problem and act if there evidence of a major problem – and the results of an official survey, announced this week, show there is.
As a result chairman of the city’s licensing committee Barbara Dring said that officials are drawing up new regulations which could outlaw the practice.
Coun Dring (Lab, Oscott) said: “The overwhelming majority, 95 per cent, of people we asked were against this aggressive form of face to face fundraising and if 83 per cent say they are put off walking around the city centre because of it, this is clearly having a detrimental impact on residents and businesses.
“Chuggers are out of control.”
She said that the ban would probably include other shopping destinations, such as Sutton Coldfield Town Centre.
“We are working on a report which will come to the licensing committee this month, which will detail the process we need to follow.”
Following the report the timescale for implementing a ban would become clear.
Many other local authorities have introduced strict restrictions, including allowing only certain charities to collect on certain days, or banning them from some areas. Only a handful, such as Burnley, have banned chuggers from high streets.
But a ban in Birmingham would be by far the most widespread in the country.
However, many reputable charities including the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Mencap, Marie Curie and MacMillan have found the technique a valuable fund raising source.
Last year 750,000 people across the UK signed up to donate money through face-to-face fundraisers, contributing £90 a year on average
The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which represents charities engaged in collecting has previously argued for the council to consider managing and regulating the activity rather than an all out ban.
A spokesman said: “We have agreements with councils across the UK, which have put in restrictions on chuggers. We would like to talk to Birmingham city council about regulating face-to-face collections but they do not want to.”