Watford politicians are considering a crackdown on clipboard-sporting collectors who hassle members of the public in the town centre to sign up to direct debits for charities.

The borough council has drawn up stricter rules that would ban the collectors, dubbed 'chuggers' (charity muggers), to the lower end of High Street.

Officials are proposing allowing a maximum of eight chuggers to operate in between Clarendon Road and King Street.

Watford Observer:

Under the plans the collectors will be banned from using The Parade, a currently a popular hunting ground, as well as Queens Road, Beechen Grove, The Hornets and Vicarage Road.

The new rules come after complaints from residents and businesses about the unpopular practices chuggers deploy.

Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, said she hoped the barring chuggers from The Parade would make it a more relaxing environment.

She said: "There has been a lot of complaints and from businesses as well. It is just not what people want to see in the High Street as they can be quite persistent and challenging sometimes.

"Obviously we don’t want to stop people giving to charity.

"We don’t want our town centre to be a place where people don’t want to come and don’t want to be as they are avoiding street drinkers and chuggers. We want it to be a place where people feel relaxed and don’t feel hassled."

The council’s Licensing Committee is due to decide on the new regulations on Tuesday. In a report to the committee officials said the council traditionally grants permits to charities to collect cash and other goods on main streets in the town.

Watford Observer:

However since 1997 charities had been increasingly using professional fundraising companies to solicit direct debit contributions from members of the public.

The method has become a popular method as it helps charities secure more regular income and it is used by large organisations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, Greenpeace and the British Heart Foundation.

The report said it the law ambiguous about whether direct debit chuggers should be treated the same as traditional charity collectors.

As such the council said it had treated all charity collectors the same and required them to apply for the same licences.

The borough council recently conducted a consultation into the issue of chuggers, to which 22 people responded. Of those more than 90 per cent were in favour of banning chuggers from The Parade.

Watford Observer:

Among complaints made by the respondents were that their tactics were "generally more aggressive" than other collectors and they were putting shoppers off coming to Watford.