A Bolton businessman has started a campaign encouraging other companies to donate their Christmas party funds to charity.

Titled 'Xmas Party Heroes', Mark Hawthorn, CEO of Lostock based investor Landmark Group, is urging fellow businesses to donate their unused Christmas party budgets to charity.

He hopes this will help charities overcome a significant drop in donations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic cancelling many crucial events.

The fundraiser has raised nearly £1million so far and is supporting charities across the UK as well as local groups such as Bolton's Lads and Girls Club.

Companies that have already pledged money to charities through Xmas Party Heroes include Timpson, Property Alliance Group, Urban Splash, FK Group and Barratt Developments with more joining every day.

Mark Hawthorn said: “We all know that Christmas is going to be different this year. Due to public health restrictions traditional Christmas parties simply aren’t possible so businesses large and small are choosing to swap them for smaller, socially-distant or virtual celebrations instead.

“We also know that fundraising for charities has been decimated by Covid with many charities unable to run the events which generates the income to sustain them – we hope that Xmas Party Heroes raises awareness of this issue and can help raise some much-needed funds.

"Just over a few weeks ago I started considering our Christmas plans. It was rather obvious that there is little scope for the usual traditional entertaining and events which led to the simple conclusion that we should give all the allocated funds to charity.

“I then discovered that over £1bn is spent in the UK each year on Xmas entertaining by businesses. The vast majority of this will now go unallocated in 2020, so we started the Xmas Party Heroes campaign to get businesses to divert funds to charities, which are more in need than ever.

“I only had the idea a weeks ago and after making a few calls to sound it out, I’ve been inundated with people wanting to get onboard. The reaction so far shows there is the potential to raise tens of millions of pounds for charity.

“There will be lots of unspent Christmas party budgets this year and this campaign offers a really simple and effective solution that many businesses may not have considered.

“With the help of my team, we’ve launched a Xmas Party Heroes website to support the campaign and keep the momentum going. All we ask is that businesses let us know how much they have donated so we can keep a running total and help make a massive difference to those who need it the most.”

James Timpson OBE, CEO of Timpson, said: "This is a great idea for companies to help others when they can’t celebrate Xmas with their colleagues. I’m amazed it’s not been thought of before."

Rachel Laycock, senior corporate fundraising manager at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “We’ve lost a number of fundraising events this year but we’re hopeful the generous support of businesses across the UK could help us turn things around.

"We fundraise for vital treatment, research and care projects for the children’s hospital and that funding benefits the 280,000 young patients our hospital sees each year.

"Anyone who wishes to support us through Xmas Party Heroes can be assured their donation will make a significant difference to our young patients – not just at Christmas, but throughout the year."

For more information, visit xmaspartyheroes.co.uk.