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Business chief calls for city crackdown on charity collectors

THE boss of the firm that manages Edinburgh city centre has demanded a crackdown on "charity muggers", branding them worse than beggars.

Tom Campbell, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said the so-called "chuggers" that operate along the length of Princes Street trying to get shoppers to sign up to direct debits had become a blight on the city.

He is now calling for a summit with the bosses of charities that send staff on to Princes Street to stop them "invading people's privacy".

His views have been supported by business leaders in the city. His intervention comes just weeks after Balmoral Hotel boss Ivan Artolli called for Edinburgh to take a harder line on beggars, which he said are worse in Edinburgh than in 15 other major cities.

&#149 What gets you more annoyed – beggars or "charity muggers"?

Mr Campbell said: "Businesses like the Balmoral say it (begging] is a slur on their building, so it is an issue for some.

"For me, almost a bigger issue is the 'charity muggers'. The beggars are to some extent passive, but those who represent charities are not passive.

"I think we should be approaching the chief executives of these organisations because I don't think they are doing their brand any good at all."

He is to write to chief executives of the leading charities that operate on Princes Street and ask for a series of meetings to discuss how to change their behaviour.

A spokeswoman for Essential Edinburgh said that a way of collecting that is "not necessarily an invasion of people's privacy" is needed.

Graham Bell, a spokesman for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is an issue, although businesses in general may feel that if they speak out they are on a hiding to nothing because they may be seen as in some way uncharitable.

"This is not to say that in these difficult times the business community does not sympathise with the need for charity, but it is difficult enough to walk up Princes Street at the best of times. If you get roped in by people asking for money it is another impediment to the free flow of business traffic in the city centre.

"The majority of people who give to charity would prefer to do so on their own volition rather than being pressured on the street."

Councillor Iain Whyte, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said it may be time for the Scottish Parliament to take action on the issue.

He said: "It is difficult as you do get charities who shake a tin and see what they get and some people like giving in that way, so you don't want to take away all street collecting. But there should be greater control of some more aggressive street collecting."

Face-to-face fundraising is regulated by a national code of conduct drawn up by the Institute of Fundraising.

Michael Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, said his organisation is working to ensure that the level of face-to-face fundraising activity was "appropriate to the location".

He said: "We do spot checks in Edinburgh and if we find fundraisers breaking the rules we ask for them to be disciplined.

"We do, from time to time, hear the view from retailers that they think this puts people off shopping, but there is not a scrap of evidence to suggest this."

City council leaders have not yet discussed Mr Campbell's views with him and did not want to comment.

'WE'RE WORKING TO HELP, AND GIVING OTHERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO HELP'

IDA Salonen, 21, who lives on the Royal Mile, has been street fundraising for anti-poverty charity Concern Worldwide since she arrived from Finland three weeks ago.

She was among around half a dozen on Princes Street yesterday and admitted she did not always get a positive reaction from the passing public.

"It's a hard when people are rude to us because we're only trying to make a living.

"We do get a lot of bad reactions. If someone is having a bad day then we're an easy target.

"I don't like this term 'charity mugger' because it's not like we jump out and grab people. We're only trying to talk to them in a friendly way.

"I love this job but I understand why people get frustrated with us because there are a lot of people who don't like what we do.

"I think it's a very positive and self-fulfilling job because we're working to help people, and giving others the opportunity to help people too."

 
 
 

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