Workers urged to give hour's pay to help children

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The Independent Online
THE ENTIRE British workforce should donate an hour's earnings to "create a better future for children", a new scheme urged yesterday.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, yesterday joined in by pledging to give his final hour's earnings of the millennium to the project which will raise cash for children's charities.

The Children's Promise Campaign, set up by Marks & Spencer as part of the national millennium celebrations, hopes to raise more than pounds 100m for charities, including Barnardo's, ChildLine, the Children's Society, NCH Action for Children and the NSPCC. Organisers believe more than 60 per cent of the public would be willing to take part in the scheme.

The campaign was launched yesterday as part of M&S's pounds 12m sponsorship for millennium events, which will include supporting a "National Identity Zone" inside the Dome.

The M&S chairman, Sir Richard Greenbury, said he would be giving his last hour's earnings to the fund and encouraging members of staff, customers and other companies to do likewise. The store chain will set up a way for employees to make their contributions directly through the company's payroll system.

The Minister without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson, who helped launch the scheme also said he would be contributing his final hour's salary and was sure his fellow Cabinet ministers would need no encouragement to do likewise.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Blair would be making a donation of "a couple of hundred pounds" - more than an hourly rate for his job. His current salary is pounds 105,173, though the Prime Minister takes significantly less than his entitlement.

However, M&S boss Sir Richard Greenbury, is likely to put him in the shade with an estimated donation of pounds 450, based on his 1997 earnings - although staff said his final amount could be even higher as he was giving the project his full personal backing.

Organisers said they hoped people would feel generous enough to give a portion of their gross salary and said if companies arranged for payments to be deducted direct from payrolls people could make tax-efficient contributions.

The initiative makes M&S the fifth "founding partner" company to invest pounds 12m in the Dome and millennium celebrations - including BT, BSkyB, Manpower and Tesco.

Jennie Page, chief executive of the New Millennium Experience Company, said Marks & Spencer's pounds 12m pledge brought the total sponsorship raised so far to pounds 87m, out of the pounds 150m needed to hit the pounds 758m budget for the Dome and Festival events.

A helpline has been set up to offer more information about the campaign; call 0870 607 1999.