Charity’s song and dance row

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A ROW has erupted over whether a charity should be allowed to perform music while fund-raising.

Peter Quinn, founder of Charity Aid, has hit out after officials at St Helens Council refused his organisation a permit to collect in the town centre while playing songs.

Mr Quinn, whose work has been honoured by Price Edward, says St Helens is the only town in the country to ban the practice.

However, council chiefs have hit back, insisting the charity’s performances detract from their own street entertainment programmes which are designed to support the town’s hard-pressed traders.

“I’m shocked at the way my little group of volunteers has been treated by the council,” said Mr Quinn.

“Our idea puts the fun back into fundraising and puts smiles on people’s faces. It also raises a lot more than normal charity collections.

“We’ve raised almost £1,800 in just one day in St Helen’s which is around ten times what a normal charity collection would achieve.”

“Lots of famous performers do work for charity – but according to the council they can’t do it in St Helens – the only town in the country which has such a ridiculous stance.

“It’s utterly childish. The people of St Helen’s have loved our performances and because they have appreciated them so much they have donated an amazing amount of money.”

Mr Quinn, who hails from Wigan, started fund-raising for Christie’s Hospital where he was treated for cancer and has subsequently raised nearly £200,000 for the hospital and other charities.

His group organises street collection using musicians and singers to entertain passers-by.

He added: “All our performers are volunteers who love to help the less fortunate. This new decision by the council flies in the face of modern charity work and takes us back to the Victorian times.

“If this council has its way the Salvation Army Band will be disbanded and we won’t even get choirs and carol singers fundraising in the town this Christmas.”

A town hall spokesman said: “We are approached by numerous charities who want to collect in the town centre and unfortunately it’s impossible to cater for all of them.

“So we focus on local charities and national charities with local offices – which directly benefit our residents.

“The council has always tried to accommodate Charity Aid’s requirements and arrange alternative collections when preferred dates are not available.

“The difficulty arises when collections are combined with street entertainment. The council has a regular programme of entertainment that’s completely free of charge for those who want to watch it.

“As such, Charity Aid’s requirement to combine collections with entertainment sometimes undermines a council policy that’s designed to support hard-pressed town centre shops and traders.”