Local government minister says byelaws are not the way to control ‘deeply unpleasant’ and ‘conniving’ street fundraisers

Howard Lake | 25 June 2014 | News

Birmingham City Council’s two-year campaign to establish a bylaw to regulate street fundraising has been brought to an end after the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) declined to approve the proposal.
Instead, local government minister Brandon Lewis said that councils should address residents’ concerns through agreements with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association and “legal clampdowns should be used only as a last resort… creating laws that nobody can fundraise ever isn’t the way to do it”.
The PFRA currently has 92 ‘site management agreements’ with councils and town centre management companies.
Sally de la Bedoyere, PFRA’s chief executive, said:

“As ever we are ready to assist Birmingham City Council. We are hopeful that over the coming months we can work together in partnership to find a balanced and sensible solution”.

However, when asked by UK Fundraising, Birmingham City Council did not say whether it would now work with the PFRA. A spokesperson said:

“We are very disappointed the government has failed to listen to the people of Birmingham on this issue.
“We were never seeking a ban on charity collectors, just permission to create a legal framework that ensured they behaved in an appropriate and responsible way.
“Our request for a by-law was submitted on the basis of public feedback – which showed that 95 per cent of those surveyed said they minded being stopped by collectors.”

DCLG cites research by the Local Government Association last year that shows how PFRA agreements had successfully reduced complaints.
However, in the DCLG press release announcing the decision,  Lewis describes the series of PFRA agreements as councils “putting the brakes on this menace”. He also calls street fundraising “deeply unpleasant” and refers to street fundraisers as “connivers”.
When challenged on this language by UK Fundraising, a DCLG spokesman agreed that the minister had used “strong rhetoric” but denied that he intended the comments to apply to all street fundraisers, only those that had generated complaints through aggressive behaviour and risked the public’s generosity as a result.
The first paragraph of the press release reads:

“Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis today (25 June 2014) called on councils to take sensible steps to clamp down on high street harassment, signalling a get-tough message to so-called ‘chuggers’.”

Lewis was leader of Brentwood Council when that council signed a site management agreement with the PFRA in 2008. His language then was more measured,  saying:

“There is a huge amount of good work we all support and it’s a shame that the actions of a few in the town centre can cast aspersions on the group as a whole. It’s great that they have got together…to put something together to help with that.”

PFRA has published details of its dealings with Birmingham City Council over the byelaw, along with a timeline of events.

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