War on chuggers continues in Colchester town centre as council clamps down on aggressive fundraising

Colchester Market, where some charities have been buying pitches to use as a base for 'chugging'. Pi

Colchester Market, where some charities have been buying pitches to use as a base for 'chugging'. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Tougher rules on chuggers are being introduced in Colchester after complaints some elderly people were giving bank details to “aggressive” charity fundraisers just to get rid of them.

Colchester Borough Council introduced in February 2016 restrictions on so-called “chuggers” (charity muggers) operating in the busiest part of the town centre.

Under an agreement with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, face-to-face fundraising on High Street between St Nicholas Street and North Hill and Head street, and Culver Street West between Trinity Street and Head Street is restricted to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays between 9am to 7pm only.

The licensing committee agreed to the rules following a series of complaints.

But now the council is being forced to clampdown again after some charities exploited a loophole in the restrictions.

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Charity workers have been getting round the rules by operating from private spaces – or even buying market stalls or street trader pitches to operate from as a base for chugging.

The council is now to consider forcing charities who buy a pitch to put up a stall, and to remain within the stall’s confines, rather than then moving around the High Street.

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A report to the licensing committee says the authority risks losing £2,300 in income as a result, if charities decide not to continue with pitches, but says this is outweighed by its public duty.

It adds: “In the circumstances witnessed by the licensing team, the Friday market stall amounted to a pedestal from which fundraisers were seen to conduct chugging activities.”

Mike Lilley, borough councillor for public safety and licensing, said the council did not want to stop any charity raising money as long as it was done ethically.

“We have had a lot of complaints about some aggressive chugging. It’s really annoying to people,” Mr Lilley said.

“The complaints include chuggers following people down the street after they have said ‘No, sorry, not interested,’ trying to make them feel guilty and give money.

“I know of some older people who have given over their direct debit details just to get rid of them. That’s not acceptable.

“Police run campaigns about being careful who you answer your door to – if it was door-to-door this would not be acceptable.

“People are nice and do want to give money to charity. It’s not right that they should be intimidated – is that any different to aggressive begging?

“I am disappointed with the charities involved. They should raise money in a reasonable manner if they are asking people to give up their hard-earned cash.”

“They should be named and shamed to stop giving the others a bad name.”The licensing committee meets on Wednesday, November 29, to discuss the ban.

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