Councillors bemoan spread of charity shops in Islington

Cllr Asima Shaikh (second from right). Photograph: Islington Citizen.

The presence of charity shops in the borough’s shopping parades has been bemoaned by Islington councillors.

Problems identified with the outlets included their lower business rates, the voluntary nature of their labour, and the price of their products.

The Town Hall representatives made the comments during the presentation of the annual report of Cllr Asima Shaikh (Lab, Finsbury Park), executive member for inclusive economy and jobs.

Cllr Tricia Clarke (Lab, St George’s) said: “I’ve got a bit of a bugbear about charity shops, and the way they’ve totally taken over the town centre. Charity shops get a discount on their rates, they don’t pay wages, they get free products and they charge a fortune for them.

“If you’re talking about a local economy that you want to keep the wealth in, that money is going out to charities or wherever. Obviously they have positive impact – they give people work experience, blah blah blah, and the money goes to good causes, but I think it could become a problem that the whole high street is totally dominated by them.

“There’s something about charity shops just taking. They take, and they’re not paying proper living wage. I would like to see your inclusive economy moving into those shops and see proper businesses with proper wages.”

Business support networks Angel Town Centre and Nag’s Head Town Centre record under ten charity outlets each on their databases, with six in the Angel and approximately seven in Nag’s Head.

Oxfam has two branches on Upper Street, one specialising in secondhand books. Cancer Research UK and a Mary’s Living and Giving also have branches on Islington’s de facto high street.

In response to Cllr Clarke’s concerns, Cllr Shaikh said: “They’re on my list, but there’s not much we can do. If a shop is earmarked by planning for use as retail, then we can’t control what goes in.

“I’m happy to look at that to see what we can do. If you’re a charity and you rent a premises, you can get 80 per cent mandatory rate relief, and that’s why they can go into town centres.

“What it would require is a change in the law to tackle it, but then, the look of it? Local authority attacks charity shops.”