A number of charities are hitting out at councils across London, accusing them of putting profits before people with plans to hire out clothing recycling banks to companies. They warn they could lose millions of pounds in revenue. In addition, they claim that thousands of jobs and volunteering roles could be axed if the local authorities secure approval for the proposals.
Councils currently let charities use the recycling banks for free when they re-sell unwanted clothes donated by the public. Under the new plans they would have to pay to use the banks and compete against private firms.
The Charity Retail Association says this would cut the income of London charities by £3.2 million - with Scope and Traid, the two biggest benefactors, at particular risk. It also claims 400 jobs and nearly 6,000 volunteering roles could be lost.
Seventeen London boroughs are interested in contracting out to the private sector, but no final decision has been made.
Londoners currently donate hundreds of thousands of items of clothing to charity every year using over 400 clothes banks in the capital.
In a statement, the Charity Retail Association says: "We do have serious concerns about the impact this will have on charity shops in London, which use textile banks as a vital means to generate stock. Significant income will be lost for charities in the capital if they lose their bank sites, as well as job and volunteering opportunities. We understand that councils are trying to maximise income, but we have seen this kind of large tendering in other areas and charities have simply been squeezed out of the market by large commercial rag merchants selling clothing abroad for profit.
In a statement, the London Councils said: "We are aware of concerns about the impact this might have on charities. We have discussed the proposal with the body representing charity shops. These are just proposals and discussions are at a very early stage, no decisions have been made."