Crackdown on charity chuggers

PLANS to rein in gangs of charity chuggers patrolling Westminster s streets and harassing pedestrians were announced by council chiefs this week. The number of charity muggers operating in central London is to be cut by a quarter under a voluntary agr

PLANS to rein in gangs of charity 'chuggers' patrolling Westminster's streets and harassing pedestrians were announced by council chiefs this week.

The number of 'charity muggers' operating in central London is to be cut by a quarter under a voluntary agreement with a charity regulator.

Under the new code of practice, there will be limits put on where they can stand, how many can be in one spot and how often they can canvas for charitable donations.

When the 2006 Charities Act comes into force next year, London councils will have the power to directly regulate chuggers. At the moment this power comes under the remit of the Metropolitan Police.

But councillor Daniel Astaire says Westminster is not willing to wait for the legislation to come into effect before it tackles the problem.

"It is deeply unpleasant for visitors and shoppers to be harangued by a plethora of collectors who often resort to aggressive tactics as they vie with one another to pounce on passers-by," he said.

Most Read

"It's no coincidence this has led to the phrase 'chugging', as people do feel as if they're being 'mugged.'

"Apart from turning a walk down Oxford Street into something of an obstacle course, it must also harm the reputation of those organisations in whose name such tactics are carried out.

"No one can doubt the good intentions of the charities to raise much needed funds, but the type of behaviour which has sadly become commonplace on our high streets is unacceptable."

The voluntary agreement has been negotiated by the council with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) to cut the levels of chuggers in hotspots like Bond Street, Oxford Street, Marylebone High Street, Praed Street and Edgware Road.

Mike Aldrige, PFRA chief executive, said his organisation had been passed responsibility for managing the charity workers by the Met and now offers this service to local authorities across the capital.

Speaking about the benefits for the council of collaborating with the PFRA, he said: "Westminster Council now has teeth, whereas it didn't before. That's the beauty of the arrangement."

Many residents living in chugger hotspots have welcomed news of the crackdown.

Karl Upsall, chairman of the Marylebone Association, said: "It's a great idea. When you run the gauntlet of chuggers your conscience has taken a severe beating by the time you even get to the supermarket.

"They pose a danger of making charitable action feel like an act of compulsion. So it's time action is taken."

John Falding, ex-chairman of the Marylebone Society and long-term resident of the area, echoed these sentiments.

He said: "They're not quite the pain they used to be because I think a lot of people have got wise to the fact that it's not a very good way to give to charity, with so much of the money going to administration costs.

"I much prefer to give to charity on a one-off basis, which I find much more convenient.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter