By Kevin Unitt 01/03 Updated: 02/03 08:24
CALLS have been made to stop “nuisance” charity workers pestering shoppers in the centre of Leamington.
The Observer has received a string of complaints from harassed shoppers who said The Parade had been turned into an obstacle course by what have been described as charity muggers or 'chuggers'.
Warwick district already has restrictions in place, following complaints from traders, but many of our readers want further restrictions – or indeed a total ban - on the hard-sell fund-raising practice of trying to get people to sign up to direct debits.
Town resident Wendy Cooke revealed she had actually began taking a longer route around Leamington's shops, missing out The Parade altogether, in order to avoid 'running the gauntlet'.
Tracey Black added: "Charity muggers are a nuisance. They deliberately get in your way and even after a polite 'no thanks' continue to harass you by walking with you down the street."
And Jamie Walker said: "I don't see the need for them on our high streets, surely if we want to give to charity we will off our own back, we don't need people in the street pressuring us."
Another resident, Ben Whelan, suggested that with beggars and Big Issue sellers alongside charity workers, walking The Parade had turned into a "guilt trip".
The views were echoed with scathing comments by Peter Quinn, chairman of charity organisation Charity Aid, who described 'chugging' as an "exploitative, dishonest and parasitic industry" which siphoned off millions of pounds from donations intended for charity work.
He added: "Independent research shows chuggers keep more than the first £100 they get from a donor. The only reason chugging exists is that the public are not aware of the facts. "
There was some support for the charity workers from local people however, with one person saying he was "glad they were raising awareness of a problem" and arguing "most were volunteers trying to do good".
Warwick District Council told the Observer the system it had in place for charity workers across Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth was effective.
A spokesperson explained: “Charity fund-raisers collecting direct debit information in the street is not a licensable activity, so we are not able to formally regulate it. However in response to a number of complaints from businesses in Leamington in June 2009 regarding the frequency of visits from charities, we set up a booking system.
“We now take bookings from around ten different agencies and charities and limit the number of visits to each town to two visits per week, booked on a first-come first-served basis. Since we set up this booking system, we have not received any complaints.”
Charities known to have had workers operating in the town, such as Shelter and the NSPCC, were contacted but declined to comment.
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