Hays Travel is to give all its 555 new branches £500 each to kickstart fundraising efforts in their local communities.

This forms part of an investment of more than £360,000 in Hays Travel’s local community partnership scheme.

The independent retailer, which bought the leases for Thomas Cook’s retail estate of 555 shops after the company failed in September, already gives its existing Hays branches £500 each to spend on fundraising in the local community.

The scheme has been running since the first Hays Travel shop opened in Seaham nearly 40 years ago.

Each branch gets a budget of £500 a year to invest in organising and running fundraising activities. The aim is for each shop to significantly increase that amount to donate to a charity, school, individual or important cause in the local community.

Staff are encouraged to be creative and are given control over which causes the money goes to, to ensure it is put to the best use for each area.

Toni Gibson, sales support manager at Hays Travel, who oversees the Hays Travel Foundation, announced the expansion of the local partnership scheme to the new 555 shops at this year’s branch managers conference in Turkey.

She said: “The decision to expand the funding is fantastic and the difference it will make to local charities and communities will be truly amazing. It is incredible we can give this opportunity to all the new branches that have recently joined us and the reaction we have had from them has been overwhelming – they cannot wait to get stuck in and raise money for local causes in their communities.”

This year Hays shop staff raised £57,564 for different causes. This was matched by an additional £36, 215 from the Hays Travel Foundation, bringing the total to £93,779.

Earlier this year eight Hays Travel branches in the south west of England teamed up with the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Department in a cycling challenge which raised £9,700 for a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida for six-year-old Amelie, who was in a car accident that led to the death of her father.

The Hays Travel Foundation, set up in 2015, gives money directly from Hays Travel to help young people achieve their potential through better access to health, education, the arts and sport. This year it has donated £306,592 to charity. It also matches funds raised and donated in the local community partnership scheme to registered charities.

Pictured at the conference: Irene Hays (left) presents the Local Community Partnership award to Karyn Hughes (centre) of Hays Travel, West Kirby branch receives the Local Community Partnership award for her shop’s fundraising efforts in the North West of England from Irene Hays (left) and foundation trustee Mike Dillon.