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