Tighter controls on Norwich chuggers

Sam EmanuelTighter controls are set to be imposed on street charity workers known as 'chuggers' after fears were raised that they were putting people off shopping in the city.Sam Emanuel

Tighter controls are set to be imposed on street charity workers known as 'chuggers' after fears were raised that they were putting people off shopping in the city.

The so called chuggers, also dubbed charity muggers, ask members of the public to sign up to pay standing orders and direct debits to charities.

Some shoppers have felt intimidated by the number of such collectors in streets such as Gentleman's Walk, but because the practice does not involve any exchange of cash, they do not need a licence from Norwich City Council, meaning there has previously been no way of limiting their numbers.

But a meeting on Friday between Julian Foster, chair of the city centre Safer Neighbourhood Action Panel (SNAP), Norwich City Council officers, Stefan Gurney, City Centre Partnership manager, and Michael Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), has resulted in the SNAP panel, the council and the police being given permission to draw up a code of conduct which the charity workers will have to abide by once it is approved by the PFRA.

The agreement will include limits on the number of street charity workers allowed to operate in the city at a time, where they can be based and the times they can operate.

Mr Foster said: 'Our meeting on Friday was very productive - we decided we would enter into a local agreement and he left us to draw up a code of practice which will regulate the activities of the chuggers.

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'We haven't got down to any kind of detail, but once it's finalised we will publish the details and ask the PFRA to police it, and we will ask the public to report any regulations they think have been broken to the city council, who will require the regulatory association to deal with it. We hope this will be in operation by May.'

The problem had been highlighted by Mr Gurney, and Bowthorpe councillor Antony Little, who said: 'There are very few issues which get an overwhelming response from the public but this has been one of them. There is a great concern that you do run the gauntlet when you go down Gentleman's Walk.

'I was contacted by the PFRA who suggested that we look at what they have done in Nottingham. They have got a framework which divides the city up and then specifies periods when collectors can operate. It also limits the number that operate and the number from each charity.'

A separate code of conduct, being drawn up by the panel without the involvement of the PFRA, will limit the activities of people who sell goods in the city from a barrow or cart, when they are only licensed to carry their goods and not allowed to be stationary unless they are mid-transaction.