CAMPAIGNS: Lobbying - Taxing times for St John’s Annie

Client: St John Ambulance

Client: St John Ambulance

PR Team: In-house and Politics International

Campaign: Zero VAT on Resusci-Annie

Timescale: March - July 1998

Budget: Costs under pounds 1,000

Resusci-Annie is the name affectionately given to the manikins used by

St John Ambulance to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation


Since 1990 Resusci-Annies had been classified as medical equipment and

therefore zero-rated for VAT. However in March 1997 St John was notified

that manikins were no longer eligible for tax relief, adding pounds

75,000 a year to the charity’s bills. Faced with the prospect of a

costly VAT tribunal, St John launched a campaign to overturn the VAT



To lobby Parliament and other decision-makers, mobilise St John

Ambulance volunteers in support, obtain positive media coverage and get

VAT removed from manikins.


St John had not previously undertaken any public affairs activity, but

the in-house team decided to launch a lobbying campaign with the support

of Ken Penton, a Politics International consultant, who donated his time

free of charge.

Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea, was identified as a potential

supporter and enlisted to lay down an all-party Early Day Motion


A full briefing was sent to all MPs and supporters in the Lords asking

them to submit parliamentary questions in support of the campaign.

The Mirror, the newspaper most read by St John volunteers, was offered

an exclusive on the campaign, including a case study about a successful

resuscitation in Newcastle. A photocall, featuring a volunteer and a

Resusci-Annie, was held outside Parliament and made available over the

PA newswire.

Local lobbying and media work was co-ordinated through the St John

Ambulance network of 60 PROs spread around 48 county headquarters.

An action pack was distributed containing draft local press releases,

advice on writing letters to the media, and bullet points for MPs.

Volunteers were encouraged to write to local MPs, and local photocalls

were held.

The specialist press was also targeted, including nursing and

accountancy magazines.


The EDM was signed by 115 MPs and three submitted parliamentary

questions in support of the campaign. The issue was also raised in the


The Mirror got right behind the campaign, running several editorials, a

feature and letters. There were two items on Radio 5, including an

interview with St John’s director of public affairs Brian Rockell, and

10 local radio reports. Regional newspaper coverage was exceptional,

totalling 40 items. Trade coverage included Accountancy Age, Nursing

Times and Health and Safety at Work.

On 2 July the Treasury agreed to reinstate tax relief by drawing up an

Extra Statutory Concession (ESC), backdating it to March 1997.


This was a well engineered and extremely cost-effective campaign in

support of a very worthy cause. Careful targeting of an MP and political

correspondent, the advice of Politics International, gave the campaign

momentum. This was then sustained thanks to the swift mobilisation of

support at regional level. The speedy response of the charity ensured

the case didn’t end up in tribunal.

’This was a campaign that meant something to a lot of different people,’

says St John Ambulance PR manager, Alison Rothwell. ’From an internal

communications point of view it was a success because we were able to

mobilise our volunteers to move very quickly.’

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