Portsmouth City Council leader calls for tighter measures on high street ‘chuggers’

QUESTION TIME A 'chugger' collects signatures for an anti-smoking campaign in Commercial Road, Portsmouth
QUESTION TIME A 'chugger' collects signatures for an anti-smoking campaign in Commercial Road, Portsmouth
The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

Flag from HMS Victory and Lord Nelson’s love letters up for sale at London auction

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CALLS have been made for tighter controls on charity street collectors operating on the high street.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson hopes to launch a voluntary code in the city aimed at introducing more regulations for face-to-face street collectors – commonly branded as ‘chuggers’, short for charity muggers.

SIGN UP A 'chugger' asks for a signature

SIGN UP A 'chugger' asks for a signature

Street collectors often use high streets to ask members of the public to donate to charities through direct debit payments.

Cash collectors, such as the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, can apply for a collection licence from a local authority as part of the Police, Factories etc (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916.

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson says the act is out of date and ‘chuggers’ are exempt from the guidelines.

He added the government is looking to change the act in two years’ time, but he wants the voluntary code in place in Portsmouth by the autumn.

He said: ‘There’s a lot of worry that it makes the high street where these people gather fairly unwelcoming for people because they get stopped all the time.

‘No one knows who to complain to. When signing up to charities, it’s not clear about how much the charity gets or the agency.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson chaired a meeting with Lord Hodgson, charity representatives, local authorities, and the Public Fundraising Regulator Association (PFRA) to discuss street collection regulations.

He invited the PFRA – a charity-led membership body that self-regulates all forms of direct debit face-to-face fundraising – to Portsmouth to discuss implementing the voluntary code.

But Ian McQuillan, PFRA spokesman, said the organisation was in touch with the city council last year and discussed the issue with the town centre manager.

He said: ‘We have not heard back from them. Despite what appears to be interest in these sorts of collectors, it’s not always at the top of the council’s agenda.’

It comes as figures across the area have expressed worries over the number of ‘chuggers’ on the streets.

Rhoda Joseph, commercial director of Cascades Shopping Centre, said there are too many in Commercial Road.

She said: They are quite pushy. Some of them are pleasant with it, but some are quite intimidating.’

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: ‘There are some in the streets in Fareham, particularly in West Street in the pedestrianised area, and people tend to go out of their way to avoid them.’

‘I felt intimidated as she stood uncomfortably close to me’

HERE The News’ Emily Hackett tells of her experience with ‘chuggers’ in Commercial Road.

She said: ‘Despite making eye contact with at least four of them, they all smiled and allowed me to carry on with my journey through the city centre.

‘When they did approach people it was from a distance and they walked away after rejection.

‘One saw me from a distance and started waving in an overly energetic fashion before skipping up to me. She said “I love your umbrella”. I thought this was an unusual way to greet someone but realised she was trying to strike up a conversation.

‘She began walking along side me until we reached the spot where she had been standing.

‘I felt intimidated as she stood uncomfortably close to me and insisted I stood under her umbrella so she could talk to me.

‘When I announced I wasn’t giving her any money for the third time her mood changed, she became snappy and made me feel as if I had wasted her time.’

‘Chugging’ generates £130m every year

FACE-TO-FACE charity collecting generates an estimated £130m every year, according to the PFRA.

The regulators estimate that around 17 to 18 per cent of all donors giving to charity through direct debits or standing orders were signed up through this method of fundraising.

Charities use a variety of methods to raise money, including direct mail, email, television, newspapers and more than 600,000 people sign up and pledge donations through direct debit each year.

The PFRA say ‘chugging’ allows charities to talk to and attract people who are not always responsive to more traditional methods of fundraising.

Face-to-face fundraising on the street does not require any form of police or council licence – just the permission of the site owner – but the government is seeking to bring in more regulations in the future.