Charitable collections

Charitable collections are currently regulated by two separate Acts of Parliament:

  • The police, factories, etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916 deals with collections of money or sales of articles for charitable purposes in streets or public places
  • The House to House Collections Act 1939 deals with collections of money or other articles made by means of going from house to house 

Regrettably, the law is inconsistent and does not cover some common types of fundraising, such as direct debit collectors in the street ("chuggers"). Southampton City Council has, however, entered into a site management agreement with the Institute of Fundraising so as to provide a measure of control and accountability for this method of fundraising.

The city council is the licensing authority for both street and house to house collections, although it is possible for nationally based charities to obtain exemption orders from the Charity Commission enabling house to house collections to be carried out over a wide area, subject to notice to local authorities. Small house to house collections, such as carol singing in a limited area for a local worthy cause, can be granted an exemption certificate by the Police - please contact your local police station.

Apply for a street collection permit or a house to house collection licence - there is no fee associated with these applications. Tacit consent does not apply - the legislation seeks to protect the public and it is in the public interest that your application is determined by the council as Licensing Authority. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period (not less than 28 days), please contact us.

What permissions are needed?

Street collections

Any collection of money or sale of articles for a charitable purpose (this can be any worthy cause, not just a registered charity) in a street or other public place will need a street collection permit from the city council. Collectors must hold a written authorisation from the promoter of the collection and must produce it on request to a police officer or an authorised officer of the council. There is an exception from the general rule in the case of a collection taken at a public meeting in the open air.

Additionally, permission from the landowner may also be required, for instance in a shopping centre or other privately owned area.

The city council has discretion as to the grant of street collection permits, subject to a duty to act reasonably.

House to house collections 

Collections of money (including promises to pay at a later date), goods (such as clothes) or sales of articles for a charitable purpose (see above), made by means of visits from house to house (including business premises, such as public houses), will need a house to house collection licence from the city council, if no Exemption Order or local police certificate has been obtained.

Collectors must be able to prove that they are authorised to collect by holding a certificate or authority and badge issued by the promoter of the collection and producing them to a police officer or any occupant of the premises from which they are collecting.

The city council's powers to refuse a house to house licence are restricted by the legislation, but a licence can be refused if the total amount likely to be applied for charitable purposes out of the collection or payments from the proceeds of collection are excessive in proportion to the total proceeds of the collection.


The city council's policy on street collections is as follows:

  • Each organisation will be restricted to one city centre collection per year (including, but not exclusively, Above Bar, Above Bar Pedestrian Precinct, High Street, the Bargate and adjoining streets and open places)
  • In exceptional circumstances, such as an emergency appeal, consideration may be given to the grant of additional permits
  • Exceptionally, the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal be permitted to collect in any part of the city, on the Monday to the Saturday immediately prior to Remembrance Sunday
  • The city council reserves the right to conduct a criminal records check on the applicant for a permit to determine their suitability to conduct a charitable collection
  • No further permits will be granted to an organisation until a satisfactory return for every previous street collection by that organisation has been received by the city council
  • Applications for permits are dealt with on a first come, first served basis, with organisations usually being granted exclusive use of a particular area for their collection. To allow time for applications to be processed they should be submitted with at least one month's notice

Other collections

The following examples are not comprehensive, but are provided to assist fund-raisers and the public.

Collections conducted: entirely within shop premises, or by means of static collection boxes in private premises will not require a street collection permit.

Collections made: adjacent to public thoroughfares (such as in shop doorways), or in premises to which the public have unrestricted access without payment (such as indoor shopping centres) will require a street collection permit.

Collections made, for example, by visiting more than one public house, with landlords' consent, will require a house to house collection licence.

The activities of direct debit mandate collectors (so-called "chuggers") are not regulated by the law, and are not therefore subject to any licensing provision. Please make any complaints about their activities to the charity which they represent, the police, the Charity Commission or one of the organisations representing the sector.

Future developments

The Charities Act 2006 , which received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, seeks, amongst other matters, to consolidate and amend the law on charitable collections, but this part of the Act has not been brought into force, and it now looks unlikely that it will be in its current form, following the review of the Act by Lord Hodgson in 2012 . The Charities Act 2006 and its accompanying explanatory notes are available from - Charities Act 2006

The Charities Act 2011, which came into effect in March 2012, consolidates the various charity legislation, including the redefinition of "charitable purpose"; however, it does not deal with public charitable collections.

Further information

Information is available via the links below about the registration of charities and charitable activities from the Charity Commission and the Cabinet Office list of those charities that have been exempted under section 3 of the House to House Collections Act 1939 from the need to make application to local authorities.

If you are concerned that a street collection or house to house collection may not be authorised or may not be lawful, please contact Hampshire Constabulary via their 101 non-emergency number in the first instance.

Data Protection

Please note that the licensing authority may be required by law to disclose to the appropriate authorities, from time to time, further information relating to applications and licences for the purposes of law enforcement and the prevention of fraud.