Why Cllr Mike Bird is wrong about Walsall’s charity shops

WSometimes it never rains but pours when it comes to individuals or organisations attacking charity shops. Sadly, we’ve seen another set of misinformed and misguided comments, this time by Cllr Mike Bird – leader of Walsall Council. According to the BirminghamLive website, he wants charity shops replaced with something more ‘meaningful’ in his area

Well, we know what meaningful is. Every charity shop we represent brings huge environmental and community benefits. On average, each charity shop diverts an average of 29 tonnes of textiles from landfill and 327K tonnes of textiles were sent on for reuse and recycling by charity shops in 2017/18. Not only that, the Demos Shopping for Good report revealed that charity shops “support members of the public to offset the rising cost of living as nearly 40 per cent of respondents to nationally representative polling saying they were likely to save money by purchasing from a charity shop”.

Judging by Cllr Bird’s speech at the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Housing and Land Development Board meeting, he also wants to examine removing business rates relief from charity shops. If that happens their numbers will undoubtedly shrink. However, by doing this Walsall’s high street landscape will not then suddenly change for the better. Charity shops do not cost his council money either: business rates relief on charity shops is fully funded by central government. 

He also uses the word endemic to describe charity shops. This is negative and unhelpful towards an important section of the retail community in which he serves. Charity shops are not a disease, they are part of the cure to saving town centres across the UK.

How? Every charity shop in the Walsall area provides a fantastic service to its local community. Each one has extensive volunteer or paid full-time work opportunities, ensure those on lower incomes have access to clothing, are environmental hubs, and also fill shop units that would otherwise be vacant. According to recent data, charity shops in the West Midlands account for just 3.9 per cent of the total retail landscape. This compares to a 2017 news report that revealed that one in four retail units lay empty within Walsall.

Our members’ shops can be great partners of local authorities, which can lead to increased recycling rates, more stock for local charity shops and a lower landfill tax bill for the council. 

So, our message to Cllr Bird is simple: get on board with charity shops and see them for what they are – outstanding contributors to his local community.

Robin Osterley
Chief Executive
Charity Retail Association