City business chiefs attack Capital’s take on chuggers

'Charity muggers' or chuggers continue to bring in complaints
'Charity muggers' or chuggers continue to bring in complaints
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THE Capital’s regulation of street fundraisers, or “chuggers”, has been branded dysfunctional by the company behind the city centre’s business improvement district.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said a code of conduct agreed last year with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), which banned charity muggers from harassing shoppers on Princes Street, was not working and that he had since received a “stream” of 

He said a bylaw rather than tougher monitoring would be needed to improve the situation, and added that his organisation had recently received more complaints about chuggers than beggars.

The call comes after a new penalty regime was introduced by the PFRA forbidding charity workers from following a person for more than three steps, standing within three metres of a shop doorway or cashpoint, and signing people up by direct debit if they are drunk.

But Mr Neal told the News he doubted the measures would be effective.

He said: “I do not think anyone has paid any attention to the regulation, to be honest, and there has been no formal discussion of it since I joined Essential Edinburgh. We are still getting a stream of complaints from customers and businesses.

“When we get complaints, what we do is write to the charity involved and ask them to reconsider that form of fundraising as it’s probably damaging their reputation.

“But I have no wardens to help me. What there has to be now is a bylaw which says nuisance fundraising is not allowed on our streets. Or the charities need to decide themselves that this is not a form of fundraising that’s appropriate.”

Mr Neal’s call was today backed by business leaders and councillors. Fraser McInnes, colours director at a city centre hair salon, said: “I would be happy to see a bylaw. When you get packs of chuggers it can be quite frustrating and it could put people off from coming into the city.

“You’ll get one pack and you move along the street and there’s another one. Sometimes they just do not give up.”

Graham Birse, of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “What Andy Neal is suggesting makes eminent sense.

“What we need is a mechanism to control this practice because it does obstruct people from going about their business and enjoying the city.”

Councillor Joanna Mowat, Conservative member for the city centre, said: “I know there’s a lot of frustration among businesses and tourists in the city centre about this.

“We need to take the opportunity to see if we can use the new regulation effectively but if it’s not sufficient we would have to consider bylaws.”

PFRA bosses said the regulator had been in discussion with Essential Edinburgh and the city council since 2010 but had made little progress on reaching a voluntary agreement for monitoring fundraisers similar to the one announced for 
Glasgow in March.

PFRA Spokesman Ian 
MacQuillin said: “Essential Edinburgh approached us and then decided they did not want to talk anymore. And the council have certainly not been making noises to say they want to tackle this.

“We have an approach to this issue that is proven. They only have to look to their neighbours in the west to see it will work.”