CHARITY fundraisers could be banned from the town centre at weekends — to prevent them intimidating town centre shoppers.
On-street charity fundraisers — known as "charity muggers" or "chuggers" — have become a familiar sight in the streets around Victoria Square as they approach shoppers, asking them to sign up for a monthly direct debit.
Now, Bolton Council plans to ask charities to agree to a set of rules designed to stop shoppers being pestered by fundraisers.
These include banning fundraisers at weekends and asking them to keep a distance of three metres from each other.
They also want charities to agree to only allow a maximum of five fundraisers on the streets, with just one charity allowed each day in either Deansgate and Oxford Street, or Market Street and Hotel Street.
Bolton is following in the footsteps of Manchester, Salford, Trafford and Wigan, who have all introduced the agreement through the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, and will now start a public consultation about the plans.
Cllr Nick Peel, who is in charge of licensing applications to the council, welcomed the move.
He said: “All of the charities who apply to carry out street collections on the square come to me for approval, and the vast majority of ‘chuggers’ are very reasonable.
“I think the rules that we have on fundraisers are quite right. We don’t want people feeling intimidated when they’re out shopping.”
The same report also calls for more restrictions on house-to-house charity collections — asking that charities only carry out one collection drive per ward each year.
Cllr Peel believes more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people being hassled on the doorstep.
He said: “People are really offended by it. There are plenty of charity shops and direct debit arrangements available if people want to give to charity.
“But we are restricted by national government regulations over what we can do about it.
“It would be helpful if we could have more stringent regulations, but I’d urge members of the public not to feel forced to give money to charities on the doorstep.”
The term “chugger” is short for the slang phrase “charity mugger”. The fundraisers are paid a set wage, with some receiving commission for the number of people they sign up to a direct debit.
In 2012, council bosses introduced new rules which aimed to restrict the movement of street fundraisers. Those who breach the rules can land the charity they represent with a fine of at least £1,000.
The measures by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) include chuggers no longer being able to follow a person for more than three steps.
To have your say on the new plans, go here.