Federal Conference Committee Report – 11 April 2017

The Federal Conference Committee met on 11th April 2017 to review Spring Conference 2017 and to consider the feedback received.

Spring Conference 2018 – York

Spring Conference in York was a success overall. The feedback that we considered came from a number of sources. We received a document containing the comments of committee members, party staff and the stewards. We also considered a summary of the online feedback and an analysis of the speakers cards submitted as against those called. Most of the feedback was very positive.

We had a record number of attendees. We were 19% up on the numbers from 2016. 26% of attendees were first timers. On any view, that is a fantastic set of figures.

In terms of those responding to the survey, there was a 4% increase in those between 40 and 59 and an equivalent decrease in those aged 60-74. 6% of those responding considered themselves to have a disability or access issue.

Over 80% of respondees thought that York was good or excellent as a venue, reinforcing what we are often told – Lib Dems really like going to York. The vast majority thought that security was at excellent. There were a number of grumbles about the catering but it fared better than in previous years. The Novotel also fared better in terms of satisfaction than before.

There was praise for the agenda; it was varied and interesting for the most part. 8% of people thought that there should have been more debates; 2% thought there were too many. 90% thought the balance was about right. As ever, the main motivation for attending conference was said to be debating policy with the next most popular choice being networking.

Most people attended 2-3 fringes. 81% of those responding rated the fringe programme as good or excellent. Over 90% had the same view about the training programme.

The majority of respondees attended conference on the train. A sizeable number attended in a car share. The majority stayed in a privately booked B&B. The price range into which most accommodation fell was the £50-£75 per night category but almost 30% of people managed to find accommodation of under £50. 80% of those responding rated their accommodation as good or excellent value.

The satisfaction with the conference publications was largely the same as last year, namely positive. The app came out with an increased satisfaction level, as did Conference Daily. The website came out as slightly worse.

There were some recommendations for the future. Some people thought that we had outgrown the York Barbican. Others were concerned that the fringe rooms were too small (sadly there is not a lot we can do about that save for note it). There was a general view that we need to reinstate projection in the auditorium – that is the large screen that can be seen behind the chair’s table.

The committee needs to consider the issue of live streaming of conference, which was somewhat patchy. A small group was set up to consider that question. That is to comprise Nick Da Costa and Jon Ball.

I am delighted to say that we turned a profit overall. That this has happened two years in a row should hopefully put an end to any suggestion that we should abolish Spring Conference. That is a testament to the hard work of the Conference Office and the increasing popularity of our party. Registration, the exhibition and the fringe were all above budget.

I am also pleased to report that 93% of respondees thought that conference made them more proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats and made them more informed, 89% felt more involved in the democratic process of the party and 83% more motivated to campaign.

Overall, 96% of people rated their overall conference experience as good or excellent.

Autumn Conference 2017 – Bournemouth

As I said in my last report, we will be returning to Bournemouth this Autumn. It will

take place from 16th to 19th September 2017. the event may well revert to five days in 2018.

The conference deadlines are as follows:

  • Drafting Advice deadline (motions):
  • Motions deadline:
  • Drafting Advice deadline (amendments):
  • Amendments and Emergency Motions deadline:

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

Spring Conference 2018

The FCC has provisionally decided on a venue for Spring Conference 2018. That cannot be released yet as there have been some last minute hitches in finalising the arrangements. We are very conscious that we are leaving it later than usual but we will announce conference as soon as we can.

* 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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15 Comments

  • Too many times i fill in feedback for various organisations and then nothing. So well done on this and it was interesting to read

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Apr '17 - 11:33am

    The party seems to have a tradition of holding Autumn Conference in the south of England, usually at a seaside resort such as Brighton or Bournemouth, and holding Spring Conference in a northern city such as York. But as Autumn Conference is longer, and regarded as the major conference of the year, wouldn’t it be fair sometimes to reverse this, and hold Autumn Conference in the north, and Spring Conference in the south. Also, of course, Conference should sometimes be held in Scotland or Wales, rather than always England.

  • David Evershed 17th Apr '17 - 12:07pm

    Catherine Jane Crossland

    Wasn’t the Autumn conference held in Glasgow (Scotland) recently and two years running – or was I dreaming?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland – the problem is that there are very few conference venues around the country that are large enough for the Autumn Conference and also cheap enough. There is no commitment to holding the Autumn Conference in the south, and as David says, we held two in Glasgow in recent years.

    I’m a member of FCC and would be delighted to hear about any new venues that we could consider.

  • Zoe O'connell 17th Apr '17 - 1:05pm

    There’s certainly a bias towards the north of England for spring – we’ve only been to the south coast once in the last 10 years. But that doesn’t mean we’re only going to the south coast for Autumn Conference – in the same period, we’ve been to Northern England twice, two in Scotland and four on the South Coast.

    Venues recently have been:
    2016: York, Brighton
    2015: Liverpool, Bournemouth
    2014: York, Glasgow
    2013: Brighton, Glasgow
    2012: Newcastle Gateshead, Brighton
    2011: Sheffield, Birmingham
    2010: Birmingham, Liverpool
    2009: Harrogate, Bournemouth
    2008: Liverpool, Bournemouth
    2007: Harrogate, Brighton
    2006: Harrogate, Brighton

    Cost is a big factor in venue selection – we had much more freedom selecting venues while in coalition as we had a greatly increased income from external exhibitors. Increased party membership probably means we’ll see some new venues for spring soon as we’re needing to find bigger spaces to fit everyone in and we’re no longer (effectively) subsidising spring conference from autumn conference – but it takes a long time to assess and select venues so it will take a couple of years for the effects to be felt.

    As far as I’m aware, there are no locations suitable for either Spring or Autumn conference in Wales.

  • @ David Evershed David, thanks for confirming that Glasgow is in Scotland. Some folk down south may have thought it was somewhere near Watford Gap service station !!!!

    More seriously, Mary, the Sage in Gateshead and the Conference Centre in Harrogate are both good venues and centrally placed if you look at the map of the UK.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Apr '17 - 2:06pm

    Lots of percentages. But I can’t find the actual number who attended? Or the numbers answering the survey questions? In which case percentages are meaningless?

  • Zoe O'connell 17th Apr '17 - 3:02pm

    Last time we examined both Newcastle Gateshead, It had become too expensive as subventions (essentially, grants for bringing increased tourism to an area) were no longer available.

    Harrogate is still on the list of possible venues and has been looked at more recently by FCC. If commercial and other factors work out, we could well end up back there in the next few years.

  • David Raw – Yes, I thought Gateshead was an excellent venue, so was disappointed to learn that it was now ruled out on cost grounds. Zoe has now commented on Harrogate, which is good news.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Apr '17 - 5:45pm

    Mary and Zoe, thank you for your replies. In my comment I did overlook the fact that Autumn Conference has been held in locations other than the south of England quite a few times. I do appreciate that there are difficulties in finding suitable, affordable venues.

  • Diane Reddell 17th Apr '17 - 6:14pm

    On this link is a list of venues with conference facilities : http://www.conferences-uk.org.uk/cities/newcastle_conference_venues and University of Northumbria – http://nulife-online.co.uk/eventnorth/?p=652

  • Diane Reddell 17th Apr '17 - 6:29pm

    I would have thought Harrogate would be quite difficult for access as it has quite steep hills. I have never been in the venue. The thing that probably puts people off going to conference is the cost of hotels, for example the conference hotels are £170 per night. For the cost of attending conference you could have two weeks abroad on holiday.

  • Diane – I’ve had a look at the list of Conference venues in Newcastle. They all have maximum capacities of under 1000. We need 2000 for the Spring Conference and over 3000 for the Autumn Conference. The University of Northumbria conference centre has a capacity of only 250.

    There are not a lot of venues around the country that meet our needs, and even fewer that we can afford.

    I agree that the cost of the main hotels is painfully high – and they always put up the rate for conferences – but there are plenty of other options, including, in most towns, the opportunity to stay with local party members.

    I remember going to Harrogate some years ago and it wasn’t as hilly as Bournemouth!

  • Neil Sandison 18th Apr '17 - 10:29pm

    Please note there are other cities in the midlands apart from Birmingham with good transport links ,hotels and conference venues.

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