What’s on the agenda of the English Council’s meeting on 17 November…

There will be a meeting of the Liberal Democrat’s English Council this coming Saturday (17th November) at University College London.

The English Council is the governing body of the Liberal Democrats in England, meets twice a year to consider matters of importance to the English Party.

Alongside the usual reports from officers and representatives of the English Party on other party bodies, and a keynote speech from Stephen Lloyd the MP for Eastbourne, I think there are four items of note on the agenda.

Finances of the English Party

This meeting sees the annual decisions on the finances of the English Party being taken. This includes the presentation of the audited accounts for 2011, motions for the approval of the draft budget for 2013, the appointment of auditors, and the setting of the rebate to the regions, the service fee for local parties, and the grant to Liberal Youth. For these last three the proposal is for the level to stay the same.

The English Party is directly responsible for very little spending itself. It passes most of its income on to the Federal Party, in the form of a levy and in fees for services, or to the regions and other party bodies. The vast majority of that income is made up of membership fees. With the decline in membership that the Party has experienced the Treasurer and officers of the English Party have a difficult balancing act to do ensuring that key activities of the Party are funded against a background of reducing income.

It is clear that the biggest challenge facing the English Party remains fundraising.

Revisions to the rules for advertising candidate selections

As part of the report from the English Candidates Committee the English Council will be asked to approve changes to the rules that are needed following Party HQ’s decision to close Liberal Democrat News.

More on the background to this can be found in News on adverts for candidate selections.

Proposal to increase the size of the English Council

There are three motions proposing amendments to the constitution of the English Party coming to this meeting. Two are minor issues of tidying up, but the third is of more significance in that it changes the basis on which the membership of the English Council is determined.

At the moment, in addition to chairs of regions, membership is calculated based on one member of the English Council for every 500 members of a regional party or Liberal Youth. In theory this means that the size of the English Council can grow or shrink as the membership in England grows or shrinks. The proposed new method is to set the size of the English Council at a fixed membership of 150 and then divide representation between the regions and Liberal Youth in proportion to their membership.

The main implication of this change will to be increase the size of the membership of the English Council. At the last meeting 108 members were entitled to attend. I imagine the objective of this change is to make the body more representative.

Motion on Police and Crime Commissioner elections

The final item of note is a business motion from Western Counties region that regrets the decision of the Federal Party to influence local parties about whether or not to stand candidates in the PCC elections and calls for a thorough review of the organisational arrangements made by the party for those elections.

The meeting of the English Council coming as it does two days after these elections take place, I suspect this will be an early opportunity for members to react to the outcome and the much predicted low turnout.

You can find out more about the work of the English Party in my previous post What does the English Council do? and in the LDV English Council archive.

* Andy Strange is a member of the Lib Dems' English Council. He blogs at Strange Thoughts.

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4 Comments

  • Priscilla Cullen 10th Nov '12 - 11:50am

    May I suggest that the English council consider proposing to the Federal Party that a manifesto for England should be issued at every election as there is for Scotland and Wales.

  • Ian Campbell 10th Nov '12 - 11:58am

    I have sometimes voted Lib or Lib-Dem as the party later became, but I did not know that you had an ‘English party’. So far as I know your English party did not produce a manifesto for England in 2010 or previously. I hope that you will manage to do so for 2015, assuming that the Coalition, lasts so long; and I hope that England does not lose out, as it has done before, in any ‘devo-max’ negotiations that follow the defeat of the independence vote in Scotland in 2014. Post-devolution, it is absurd that MPs from Scotland, Wales and N Ireland can vote on purely English domestic legislation at Westminster. This is simply not democratic, just or fair.

  • Ian – the party’s policy is quite clear on this – we agree that the current situation is not sustainable. Our solution, as outlined in Ming Campbell’s recent report to the Scottish Conference last week, is for a Federal solution where Westminster devolves as much responsibility as possible. The nature of the relationship between Westminster and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be different to that of Westminster and England or its regions simply because of the different legal structures.

    However, as a Scottish member it does surprise me that much of the policy on Federalism and devolution is driven by the Scottish party. That was probably appropriate when the main aim was a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly; but the big question now is not whether these institutions will survive but what England’s future should be. That’s where it’s up to the English party to start figuring out its own devolution policy which is suitable for England – something which up until now they don’t seem to have done.

  • Ian Campbell 10th Nov '12 - 9:39pm

    Thanks for your reply, Keith. I can only hope that the ‘devolution policy which is suitable for England’ does not turn out to be the abolition of England. The party the past has interpreted federalism as devolution to English regions without any national focus for England. That is not a a solution that would appeal to the people of England.

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