Are chuggers still plaguing shoppers on Norwich city’s high street?
Street fundraising makes a vital contribution to the income of many charities – but over the years the collection tins have been increasingly replaced by a plea to sign up for monthly direct debits or standing orders.
Because there was no exchange of cash, these collections could not be regulated: and in many towns and cities, including Norwich, the number of 'chuggers' irritated many shoppers.
Complaints over the use of pushy sales pitches and alleged intimidating behaviour by some charity fundraisers in the city led the city council negotiating a deal with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) in 2010 which limited collecting to set days at specific sites such as Gentleman's Walk and London Street.
So what impact has the agreement had? Stefan Gurney, City Centre Partnership manager, said: 'The situation in Norwich is much better than it was and we have received far fewer complaints then we have done previously.
'Some people can't tolerate them at all, so there will be some complaints still, but there is limited legislation available to us. I would much prefer to have an agreement with the PFRA which means a limited number of fundraisers in set places that we have agreed rather than unlimited numbers of them across Norwich.'
City Council leader Brenda Arthur said: 'We used to have problems and lots of complaints, but then last year we entered into a site management agreement with PFRA to set out where and when street fundraisers can work in Norwich. Since then, we have only had a couple of complaints compared with 300 before. Clearly, we want to be sure that the city is a good place to visit and shop, and hope to be able to strike a balance between charity fundraising and making sure people feel at ease in the city centre.'
The Evening News also spoke to some of the Norwich Market traders who had issues with the techniques that some charity fundraisers employed to sign people up in the past. There had been previous complaints from some stallholders about collectors obstructing access to stalls and causing potential customers to shop elsewhere as they were so desperate to avoid being caught up in conversation with fundraisers.
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Brendan Read, 21, of Mike, Deb & Sons greengrocers, said: 'I'm all for supporting charities but they collect for charity the wrong way. There don't seem to be as many of them as before, though. There used to be loads of them. You get mostly the good ones but a few let the side down and you still see some of them pestering people.'
Another market trader, flower stall owner Alexander Pond, 39, said: 'It is a little better now and there aren't as many of them as there used to be. I don't think they affect trade, really. I think they do an important job collecting for good causes but they can be a bit forceful and can get in people's way. They are only doing what they are trained to do. I'm sure they are not really like that usually. It would help if some of them were a bit more friendly and had more ID.'
A former street fundraiser Alice Mooney, 22, from Leeds, but a frequent visitor to Norwich, said: 'People often forget that fundraisers are human beings trying to do a job. It's easy for people to become defensive when they're confronted about certain realities that they would rather ignore. But ultimately fundraisers are working hard to help others which is something to be respected.'
Following the apparent success of the agreement to limit street fundraising in Norwich, a similar agreement in Burnley has seen chugging banned for five days a week in the town centre while Gloucester City Council has announced its intention to enter into a similar agreement with the PFRA.
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