"Clarified and more up-to-date powers for councils" are needed to regulate face-to-face fundraising, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) in its submission to the Charities Act review, led by Lord Hodgson.
The response focuses on the much-debated fundraising technique and references a survey of local authorities which showed that while 69 per cent agreed that face-to-face is a valuable way of fundraising, 72 per cent felt that street fundraising, commonly referred to as 'chugging', was a problem, to at least a small extent, in their areas.
Further results showed that 68 per cent had received complaints about the activity and 54 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that street fundraisers put potential shoppers off visiting the high street.
"On this basis, we do not feel that the present regime is working effectively to protect residents from harassment and businesses from disruption," the LGA submission stated.
PFRA: survey is opinions not facts
Responding to the LGA submission, PFRA's head of communications Ian MacQuillin was keen to advise that the LGA survey is a reflection of opinion, not hard facts on face-to-face: “All the LGA survey does is tell you what councils think about fundraising - it doesn’t actually give you any idea about the scale of the issue that needs to be regulated," he said.
However he welcomed the revelation in the LGA's response that it would be working closer with the PFRA as a result of the survey in a bid to increase participation in the site management agreement system which sets limitations on the number of fundraisers, the locations in which they can work in and the times that they can work on a local basis.
Despite this, the LGA advised that nearly half of councils were not aware of these self-regulation practices and raised concern that the PFRA "is a small organisation and may struggle to cope with a sudden increase in the number of voluntary agreements".
MacQuillin advised that there "needs to be a balance" between local authority control and self-regulation, but warned that local authority control should not be subject to personal opinions:
"The Charities Act 2006 was going to put in controls for grounds to refuse a licence based on undue inconvenience according to time and location and that’s what we are saying that the government needs to work on.
"So [councils] need to be able to licence this but they shouldn’t be able to issue bans because they don’t like the cause, or they don’t like the method... they should be able to licence direct debit collectors the same as cash collections but there should be a balance to ensure that charities are still able to use this form of fundraising. It’s not about handing over to them total control."
LGA does not support blanket approach
The LGA also said it did not believe in a "blanket approach" to regulation, stressing that "it is only through recognisisng the value of local decision-making that the positive impact of charitable collections can be maximised for charities, and the negative impact minimised for residents and businesses".
It did, however, add that councils should be issuing licences in the first instance in order to provide a resource for the public and businesses to check the legitimacy of collectors.
"At the moment councils are not always aware of when and where collectors are or aren't present in their locality," the submission stated, adding that "even if they have been notified by the PFRA, a delay often occurs between the council receiving the enquiry and being able to confirm legitimacy".