Andrew Wiseman writes…Why we are trialling a shorter autumn conference

lib dem conf votingFederal Conference Committee is very mindful of the cost of attending conference. The cost of coming to conference as well as the overall length is often raised in feedback from members. As well as keeping registrations rates as low as possible to members, launching the conference access fund and negotiating discounts on travel costs we have been looking at the length of the autumn conference. The main costs of attending conference, for most people, is having to take time off work and the cost of accommodation. Many members are not able to take the time off work. There is also increasing pressure on all political parties to reduce the length of all political conferences to minimise the impact on parliamentary time.

We have looked at ways of making full use of the Saturday to help those who can only come for a weekend as well as reducing the length of conference to try and keep down accommodation costs, while maintaining the amount of time available for ‘member led policy motions’. Though conference does remain an income generator, we have also looked at ways of reducing the cost of conference to the Federal Party.

The autumn conference in Brighton this year will start at 9.00 am on Saturday morning. This will be the start of conference proper and the consultations sessions will be run as part of a longer fringe meeting slot. We will finish at approximately 3.30pm on Tuesday. This means we will have the same amount of time for member-initiated motions. Many members will still use the opportunity to enjoy an extra day or two in Brighton but it is hoped the revised timing will save some members money and also enable more members to come to conference. It will also mean that those who just can come for a weekend get a full day on the Saturday.

We will be trialling this change for one year and will consult with people as to how they felt it worked before deciding whether to do it again in 2017.

* Andrew Wiseman is Chair of the Liberal Democrats' Federal Conference Committee.

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  • Andrew Emmerson 14th Jan '16 - 9:46am

    Whilst I applaud the initiative and recognise the need to do something, starting at 9am in Brighton isn’t ideal

    I get the impression this will mean most north of London would have to travel down the night before if they want to be there for the start of conference still adding an extra day’s accommodation cost for most. I hope you do ask this question or monitor if this is the case.

  • Probably a good idea. We aren’t really well off enough as a party at the moment for a full five days.

  • Whereas those of us travelling from outside London were coming down the night before anyway…

  • ‘Whereas those of us travelling from outside London were coming down the night before anyway…’
    and will have to stay until Wednesday if we don’t want to cross London at peak time or arrive home very late

    And despite Andrew’s comments, this is perhaps about reducing the costs to the party as well?

  • Decent idea

    I must admit as a member who generally comes for the weekend I was always a bit non-plussed by turning up and finding business proper didn’t start till around 11/12

  • Really not happy with this news. I had already booked my accommodation to save money by booking far in advance, so now unless the hotel agree to move it (which they may not as I think they are now fully booked), I’m going to end up missing Saturday morning, as there is no way I can get to Brighton for 9am from the Midlands, and then have a pointless extra day in Brighton. This should have been announced earlier, they know people book far in advance to try and save money.

    Really unimpressed at this late decision.

  • Chris Lewcock 15th Jan '16 - 8:16am

    Much more cost-effective to get rid of the Spring Conference entirely and replace it with beefed-up regional conferences which more people can get to and which can feed more logically into the policy-making calendar.

  • Harry Hayfield 15th Jan '16 - 1:57pm

    The Welsh Liberal Democrats (and I had been led to believe the UK Liberal Democrats) have voted for One Member, One Vote. As a result of this (and given that most Lib Dem members are accessible via Lib Dem Voice, the Lib Dem Voice Forum and / or Twitter) why not have a conference in name only (i.e have it held at a central hub that doesn’t cost any money) and stream it to allow contributions from the membership via social media and Skype (thus eliminating the majority of costs)

  • Kay Kirkham 15th Jan '16 - 3:03pm

    The conference is about much more than the main hall sessions. Exhibition, training, fringe meetings, meeting people, atmosphere and so on. I tried remote access for Bournemouth when medical treatment prevented me from getting there and I lost interest after a few hours if I’m honest.

  • Mick Taylor 15th Jan '16 - 5:50pm

    My wife and I have booked a flat for a week for considerably less than a hotel for 4 days. We are travelling down on the Thursday to arrive after 3pm and then going back late morning a week later. So not only do we attend all the conference, but we have a short holiday too and travel is cheaper by avoiding peak hours and Fridays. Trebles all round!

  • Agree with Chris Lewcock, let’s have one national conference and have local conferences in spring as part of local election (national in Scotland/Wales) buildup. We don’t need 4 conferences per year (currently two national and two regional) – 3 of them get no media coverage and just eat up people’s time and effort.

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