Listen: Charity wristband sellers hit Norwich city centre without licence again
- Credit: Archant
Concerns have been raised about the regulation of charity street collectors in the city centre as an Evening News investigation found yet more evidence of wristband sellers operating without a licence.
It is the third time in less than a year we have highlighted issues around street sellers in the city and apparent confusion regarding who is responsible for tackling the issue.
In December last year a group of four men were selling 'anti-bullying' wristbands at £2 a time to people in Gentleman's Walk and St Stephen's Street.
While the sellers were not claiming to be charity collectors, they had no licence to operate, which is illegal.
That same month a firm fundraising for army veterans in Castle Mall was asked to stop, amid concerns they were not making it clear enough that just 20pc of takings were going to charity.
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In the latest case, we reacted to concerns raised by members of the public that a charity called One Autism was selling wristbands on Gentleman's Walk without permission last week.
While One Autism is registered with the Charity Commission, Norwich City Council's licensing department, which regulates street sellers, confirmed they had not been granted a street collection permit last Thursday or Friday.
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However, the council said it was then a matter for the police. The police in turn believed it was a matter for the council. Norfolk County Council's trading standards said it was a matter for the city council.
When approached by the Evening News on Thursday, the One Autism wristband seller told us he didn't need a licence.
The charity's founder, Westley Hall, also said the fundraisers did not need permission to sell wristbands because they were selling magazines.
'With regards to licensing and every other matter, I can assure you that everything is above board,' he added.
When told the charity was selling wristbands, not magazines, and did need a licence, Mr Hall said he would get rid of the fundraisers, which he said he employed through an agency.
The wristband seller told us he was raising money for an autism centre in Norwich or Great Yarmouth.
He said the charity already had centres in Brighton and Stratford.
Mr Hall said the charity would soon open a shop and drop-in centre for people with autism in Yarmouth. 'Exciting things are happening in Norfolk soon,' he added.
Mr Hall claims that £2.60 of the £3 raised per wristband goes to the charity.
He said the fundraising was started by his mother and was in memory of his late brother. 'I want autism understood. I will not stop until autism is understood,' he said.
One Autism was registered with the Charity Commission in May to an address in Bristol.
The charity is also registered with the Fundraising Standards Board to which charities sign up voluntarily to follow standards of fundraising.
Operating without a licence is a criminal offence and can lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: 'Our role is to regulate charitable street collections by granting permits when they are applied for and fulfil the licensing criteria.
'Anyone that has been granted permission should be able to produce their written authority on request of an officer from the council or police.
'We work closely with the police to investigate any reports of alleged unlicensed collections on a case by case basis.'
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: 'On-street collections need a licence from the City Council and Trading Standards at the County Council are responsible for taking action. If you are at all unsure about a collection, please don't donate and get in contact with the County or City Council.'
Visit our website to listen to what the street seller told us
What to do before you donate to charities on the street
Norfolk Trading Standards said people buying wristbands should first:
Ask who the wristband is being sold by.
Ask if they are a registered charity.
If a charity number is given you can visit the Charity Commission website to check if this number is genuine.
Ask what the money raised will be used for and how much of the donation/purchase price will support this
Brian Chatten, from Norfolk Trading Standards, said: 'Wristbands can be used by many legitimate good causes and charities as a way of showing support and also as a fundraising method.
'This does give the potential for the approach to be
exploited by both individual traders and companies selling these items as a commercial enterprise claiming to be 'supporting' a message to tackle a problem or 'highlighting' an issue.
'In some cases it is possible that only a small proportion, or none, of the money paid to the seller for the wristband will pass to a genuine charity.'
Anyone concerned about the activity of people who are claiming to be charity collectors should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
You can also contact Trading Standards via their partners the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk