CAMPAIGNS: CBI bags rethink in Brown Budget - Lobbying

A pre-Budget statement by the Treasury last November gave the Confederation of British Industry a taste of the real thing this March. Among other things, the statement outlined plans to change corporation tax from the current payment in arrears system to a US-style quarterly instalments system. The CBI made a wish list including rethinking corporation tax and used an intense lobbying campaign to drive it home to the Government.

A pre-Budget statement by the Treasury last November gave the

Confederation of British Industry a taste of the real thing this March.

Among other things, the statement outlined plans to change corporation

tax from the current payment in arrears system to a US-style quarterly

instalments system. The CBI made a wish list including rethinking

corporation tax and used an intense lobbying campaign to drive it home

to the Government.



Objectives



To urge Chancellor Gordon Brown to make medium-sized firms exempt from

paying corporation tax in instalments rather than just the very

small.



The Chancellor’s proposals to exempt only firms with profits under

pounds 300,000 could increase tax on businesses by up to pounds 22

billion, the CBI warned.



Tactics



The CBI has long-established influence in Whitehall, Parliament and the

national press. It built on these relationships for a campaign of

’public pronouncement and private persuasion’, it says. A Budget report

of CBI recommendations marked its launch in late January.



PR staff alerted national media to the launch press conference. They

briefed a few of the most influential newspaper journalists on its tax

concerns. The CBI ensured its regional officers led with corporation tax

issues in media interviews to prevent mixed messages confusing its

campaign.



Two weeks later CBI director-general Adair Turner used a conference by

3i, the business investor, to ram home the confederation’s worries. This

kept the issue in the spotlight, but it did not overdo it with leaks to

the press.



’We have a reputation for straightforwardness and that would be

compromised by permanent leaks,’ said Tim Hollingsworth, head of media

relations at CBI.



A report was sent to all MPs with a letter stating why the CBI was

pressing for changes. Hollingsworth’s team of five followed up by

contacting politicians to arrange meetings. This proactive approach was

part of its strategy of making opportunities happen rather than waiting

for them to appear, he says.



One of the campaign’s biggest strengths was the unity of purpose. ’We

were very clear what our members wanted. We had a round of regional

consultations so we knew our members backed us all the way.’



Results



The campaign helped to win the CBI a meeting with the Chancellor before

the Budget. ’It was largely on the CBI’s reputation but the campaign

ensured that he knew we had a very valid point to make,’ says

Hollingsworth. The Chancellor changed his Budget proposal to extend

pre-payment exemption to a wider band of small firms. The press hailed

this as a climbdown, caused by the CBI.



The campaign attracted a flurry of media attention with BBC radio and

TV, Channel 4 and independent stations covering the CBI’s Budget day

build-up. This was underscored by several reports in the Financial

Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Times and the Guardian. The Express and

the Sun also picked up on the pounds 22 billion tax threat.



Verdict



The five-month campaign won sustained media coverage and highlighted the

fact that the CBI comprised active and powerful business leaders.



Budget concessions reinforced its standing and the success of its

campaign.



But its lobbying fell short of total victory - the CBI also wanted tax

help for larger businesses and, it said, Gordon Brown failed to

deliver.



Client: CBI

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Lobbying to change Budget proposals for corporation tax

Timescale: November 1997 to March 1998

Cost: Undisclosed



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