Report from the Federal Conference Committee

(No, I’ve no idea what it means, either: Ed)

The Federal Conference Committee met for the first time of the new cycle over the weekend of 28th and 29th January 2017. This new committee that has been elected is due to serve for a three-year period.

Membership of the Federal Conference Committee

A number of new members have joined the committee. They include Robert Adamson, Victor Chamberlain, Nick Da Costa, Heidi Worth, Jennie Rigg, Susan Juned, and Alex Hegenbarth. We also welcomed back a few familiar faces.

The first substantive item on the agenda was the election of officers. Andrew Wiseman was re-elected as Chair of FCC and Zoe O’Connell as the Vice-Chair responsible for Conference Communications. I was re-elected Vice-Chair responsible for the General Purposes Sub-Committee (G.P.S.C.).

The following people were appointed to the General Purposes Sub-Committee: Qassim Afzal, Nick Da Costa, Jennie Rigg and Chris Maines. That committee deals with registration rates in the first instance, finances and budgets, stewards and eligibility for the concessionary party body rate.

Robert Adamson was appointed as the Access Rep. He is going to chair the Conference Access Group. Chris Maines as appointed as the Stewards Rep; he is going to liaise with the Stewards Team.

A small group was established to consider ways of making FCC members more contactable by and accessible to members.

We also set up a small task and finish group to consider the electronic submission of Speakers Cards. This was quite a major point to come out of the most recent Access Forum and it is one that we are going to look at closely. We also need to look at the format of the Q&A and intervention cards because they do not contain non-binary options for gender.

Autumn Conference 2016 – Brighton

The committee went through in some detail the feedback received from conference attendees at Brighton. There were several hundred responses overall with 21% of them coming from those aged 20-39, 32% from those aged 40-59 and 38% from those aged 60-74. 23% of the responses came from first time attendees. It was good to see that well over 95% of attendees received enough pre-conference support to feel happy about attending.

The majority found the Agenda, Directory, Conference Extra and Conference Daily useful and easy to use although a slightly worrying 18% did not use Conference Daily and 39% did not use Conference Extra at all! Over half of attendees downloaded the app and only 6% did not think it was satisfactory, easy or very easy to use. The majority of the respondees preferred it to paper.

Brighton again came out as a popular venue. Most people rated it. The same went for the catering. The reviews for the Metropole were a little more mixed but most people thought it suitable.

The overwhelming majority thought that the balance between debate and non-debate items was about right although a small but nonetheless significant number thought there were too many non-debate items. The balance between debates and fringe meetings was generally thought to be correct.

75% liked or did not mind the 9am start on the Saturday. About the same number gave the same answer about the 3pm finish on the final day.

Most people thought the fringe was satisfactory, good or excellent, with most opting for good. For those that attended the fringe, the average number was between three and six.

The majority of people travelled to conference by train or in a car-share. For most, the journey was 1-3 hours. In terms of accommodation, most people stayed in an independent hotel or B&B. There was a good spread of accommodation from £20 per night right up to £200 per night. Only a relatively small minority thought their accommodation poor value for money.

Overall, the vast majority of people rated their experience at conference as excellent or good. Just a tiny handful of people rated it as poor. Again, the vast majority said that it made them more motivated to support the party or to campaign for it and that it made them feel more involved in the democratic process and proud to be a member.

Spring Conference 2017 – York

We will returning to York for Spring Conference 2017. The dates are 17th to 19th March 2017. York is an extremely popular venue for conference attendees.

Registration numbers are running high with a very large number of new members.

The remaining deadlines are as follows:

  • Drafting Advice deadline (amendments): 28th February 2017
    Amendments and Emergency Motions deadline: 14th March 2017

On the Sunday, the committee selected the agenda for that conference.

FCC members will be writing back to the proposers of unsuccessful motions shortly. The following motions were accepted from the Federal Policy Committee: the sex work policy paper, Nuclear Weapons and Faith Schools. In addition, we also selected some local party motions and those submitted by conference reps. Zoe O’Connell will be writing her usual report on the motions selections process.

We will have an Emergency Motions slot and topical issue. There will be an opportunity to discuss BREXIT. There will also be set-piece speeches from the Leader and others and there will be the usual reports and Question and Answer sessions including one with Tim Farron.

The outline agenda will be out on Thursday 2nd February (that will be just motion
titles. It is likely that the agenda itself will be out by 20th February 2017. Those
organising local party meetings to discuss the motions would be safe to do so in that
week. It may come out up to a week earlier.

Autumn Conference 2017 – Bournemouth

We will be returning to Bournemouth this Autumn. It will take place from 16th to 19th September 2017.

The committee considered whether we should adopt the trial that we ran last Autumn of running conference for four days. Usually, Autumn Conference lasts for five days, opening on Saturday afternoon and finishing on Wednesday. In Brighton, conference opened at 9am on the Saturday and closed at 3pm on the Tuesday. We managed with only a very small loss of debate time. It had the benefit of saving money although it was initially triggered by a review of the Parliamentary recess normally allowed for Autumn Conferences. The committee overwhelmingly voted to carry on with the four-day conference for 2017 only. There may be a case for increasing the time later in the Parliamentary cycle but we are not going to do that this year. We felt that that that was in accordance with what members wanted and it had other important benefits.

The conference deadlines are as follows:

  • Drafting Advice deadline (motions): 14th June 2017
  • Motions deadline: 28th June 2017
  • Drafting Advice deadline (amendments): 21st August 2017
  • Amendments and Emergency Motions deadline: 4th September 2017

FCC will be meeting on 9th September to select the amendments.

Chairs Training

In order to chair Federal Conference, the committee runs a series of training events. For the most part, they take place at conference itself but, because there of the number of new members of the committee, it was decided to run the training at this weekend meeting. There were three sessions. The first was an introductory session to explain the basics about chairing. The second was a session on planning a debate and selecting speakers and the third was a session on understanding and applying the Standing Orders. Overall, the training lasted two and a half hours.

The committee next meets on the Friday before Spring Conference.

I am happy to answer any questions on the work of the FCC. You can reach me with
any questions or comments on 07956 472 769 or geoff@geoffpayne.org.

* Geoff Payne represents the English Party on the Federal Policy Committee. He is also one of the Vice-Chairs of Federal Conference Committee. He chaired the Criminal Justice Working Group.

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2 Comments

  • suzanne fletcher 31st Jan '17 - 12:20pm

    just thank you

  • Martin Walker 1st Feb '17 - 6:02pm

    Thank you for posting this, much appreciated. One observation – although it is good that people who went to conference in Brighton were happy with Brighton, they are much more likely to be, because they were able to get there. However, the survey also found that most people were within a relatively short journey to get there. Personally, I find it disappointing that the annual conference is yet again going to be on the south coast (by the way, Brighton is a great place, I have nothing against it).

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