There has been a fuss this week about charity shops and whether their numbers should be restricted.
They get rate relief that other shops don't get and have voluntary staff, which other shops don't have. Because of this they can undercut other shops, such as secondhand bookshops, and help to destroy our high streets.
They raise a fortune for charities and provide invaluable experience for volunteers many of whom, as a consequence, go on to new careers in the retail sector. They help poorer families to buy quality goods at cut prices. They help to save our high streets by filling shops that would otherwise be empty.
The truth lies somewhere in between. Are charity shops merely taking advantage of a free market? Or are their tax advantages and volunteer staff killing other businesses? Should their number be restricted?
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