The charitable side of ... 24-hour drinking

Indira Das-Gupta

Will the extension of opening hours prompt the nation's drinkers to put more cash into charity collection boxes?

To some commentators, extended opening hours are further evidence of the disintegration of society as we know it, but they could actually provide a boost to charity coffers. Many charities have collection boxes in pubs, so the longer people spend at the bar, the more change they'll generate for these collections.

That's the theory, at any rate. But charities are wary about making predictions and none will go further than saying they'll be monitoring what happens.

Figures compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association show that in 2003 pubs in the UK raised £120m for charities through collection boxes and other fundraising activities, such as quiz nights and sports days.

"A lot of people don't realise how much pubs raise for local charities and good causes," said a spokesman for the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations. "Say, for example, a regular customer's son falls ill - people will rally round and raise money for his operation."

The RNLI's distinctive boat-shaped collection boxes can be seen in a number of pubs, but as these are organised through local branches the charity doesn't have figures on how much they bring in. The RSPCA also fundraises in this way and estimates that each box will raise about £30 a year. Guide Dogs for the Blind also has special collection boxes in the shape of a dog. A spokesman said: "It's the iconic symbol of the organisation and placing them in pubs is important in terms of profile-raising."

One organisation that definitely won't be benefiting from 24-hour drinking, however, is the Red Cross. "It's against our ethical policy to have boxes in pubs," said a spokeswoman.

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