The Police, Factories etc (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916 is the act that requires a charity to obtain a licence for charitable collections in public places – to all intents and purposes, this means those carried out on the street. A model of local regulations is contained in the Charitable Collections Order 1974 (Transitional Provisions), though local authorities are not obliged to introduce such a system of licensing in their area.
The issuing of licences was the responsibility of the police until the Local Government Act 1972 transferred the licensing role to councils (except in London, where licences are still issued by the police).
The 1916 Act (section 5 – the only bit that is still in force) very clearly states a licence is required for a collection of money. The Act says that a licence is required in order to “collect money or sell articles for the benefit of charitable or other purposes” (s5.1).
This is what causes problems. PFRA has obtained a legal opinion from solicitors Farrer and Co that Direct Debits are not ‘money’, but they are “promises of money at a later date” – in legal terms, a 'chose in action' and therefore F2F fundraising for Direct Debits does not require a collection licence under the 1916 Act.
The Metropolitan Police agrees that Direct Debits are not covered by 1916 and so all F2F fundraising within the Metropolitan Police District is done legally without a licence.
Some councils agree that 1916 does not apply to direct debit fundraising but some councils maintain that it does. This leads to the following four permutations with respect to licensing F2F street fundraising.
- 1916 does not apply so council has no jurisdiction whatsoever – fundraisers can come and go as they please.
- 1916 does not apply so council has to work with the PFRA to ensure fundraising is done equitably for charities and residents through a site management agreement.
- 1916 does apply and council is happy to work with the PFRA to ensure fundraising is done equitably for charities and residents through a site management agreement.
- 1916 does apply and the council will not allow direct debit fundraising.
We always try to engage in dialogue with those councils who maintain that 1916 does apply and will not license F2F fundraising in an attempt to sway their opinion.
The licensing provisions in the Police, Factories etc (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916 are due to be replaced by a new unified licensing regime for cash and direct debit fundraising contained in the Charities Act 2006. They should have been superseded by the Charities Act 1992, but the relevant sections were never enacted.