Chuggers are due to be banned from The Parade in Watford as part a new crackdown on the charity-fundraisers who hassle members of the public to sign up to direct debits.
Politicians attacked the aggressive tactics of chuggers, whose nickname is shorthand for “charity muggers”, as “emotional blackmail”, “a damn nuisance” and “very irritating” during a debate tonight.
Watford Borough Council’s licensing committee also sought to futher limit chuggers presence in the town centre by reducing the proposed maximum number from eight at one time to four.
During the animated debate over the proposed crackdown, other councillors stressed that they did not want to prevent charities fundraising and called for a balance to be struck.
Ian Brown, a Liberal Democrat representing Woodside, said he had fielded complaints from constituents unhappy about being accosted while going about their business in the town centre.
He added: “I have worked for two charities in the past. It is difficult to raise money and this is a way they have found to get money. It is a difficult issue to grapple with. It is difficult with people on the High Street who think this is a damn nuisance.
“But we need to find a place between not harassing people and not deterring charities from collecting for some very worthy causes.”
Other councillors had less sympathy for the chuggers’ cause.
Peter Jeffree, a Lib Dem for Park, said he still felt allowing eight direct debit collectors in High Street at one time was too many and suggested the limit be set at four.
He said: “I do find it very irritating. In the High Street we have teams of collectors being organised by a sort of gang master.”
The results of a ballot carried out on the Watford Observer website
The chairman of the licensing committee, Councillor Jan Brown, voiced her displeasure at the direct debit collectors saying: “It is a type of emotional blackmail. I absolutely hate it.”
Park Lib Dem, George Derbyshire, added that he worried elderly residents could find chuggers’ forthright methods “intimidating”.
Yet Malcolm Meerabux, an independent councillor for Park, spoke up for chuggers saying he had never found them overbearing or aggressive.
He said: “I have never come across an aggressive chugger. I have always found them perfectly charming”.
The new rules under debate at the meeting were drawn up following complaints from residents and businesses about chuggers in the town centre.
The new regime proposed allowing a maximum of eight chuggers to operate in High Street between Clarendon Road and King Street.
This would mean direct debit collectors will be banned from using The Parade, as well as Queens Road, Beechen Grove, The Hornets and Vicarage Road.
The committee decided to agree the new rules pending a consultation with charities about the proposal of reducing the maximum number of collectors to four.
If officers could secure agreement on the lower figure, then the regime will come into effect automatically, otherwise it will return to the committee for further debate.