Federal Conference Committee so far fails to extend unfairly implemented early bird discount for Autumn Conference

It’s been four days since registration for the Autumn Conference opened. It’s three days until the initial early bird discount expires on Wednesday, 27th April. If you want to register, click here.

I suggested last week that having a discounted period that expired a) before payday for most people and b) in the middle of an election.

The party should not be handing out a double whammy to those on lower incomes. More affluent members will be able to take advantage of unbudgeted expenditure before they get paid. Those who are struggling at the end of each month will not – and they’ll be charged an extra £13, a premium of over 20%. There’s an inherent injustice here. I’m sure that this must have been an oversight and I’m sure it can be changed quickly. Let’s hope that there’s a quick rethink.

We know from the comments to my post that there was discussion amongst the Federal Conference Committee about whether that early bird discount rate of £60 should be extended at least until payday. We haven’t yet heard the outcome of those discussions and time is running out.

I still think that an extension to the end of May would be appropriate, but as a bare minimum it should be extended until a week after polling day.

The key points of the FCC’s defence are that there is another early bird discount rate of £73 that will then last until the end of May. That is true, as the table taken from the party website shows:

Autumn Conference registration prices

While there is another early bird discount period, that does not justify discriminating against our poorer members by charging them a penalty for not being able to come up with £60 mid month and with no notice in the middle of an election period. I am acutely aware that the party is having to adjust to a much lower budget than it has been used to, but that is no excuse for not living our values. The way that this has been done is simply not fair to our members on lower incomes and needs to be changed.

It’s only fair, though, to emphasise the point that if this is your first federal conference, the rate of £60 applies all the way through.

Apparently indications are that registration is well up. That’s good. We want lots of our members to come to Conference because it is actually the best fun they will ever have in their lives and they all have a say on our policies. A policy which excludes the less well off, though, diminishes us as an organisation, especially when it is so easy to correct.

Federal Conference Committee members perhaps need to remember that they are up for election this year and members will have a chance to make their views known about this decision over which they have full control.

Let’s hope that we hear some more positive news from them soon.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Apr '16 - 10:58am

    Gareth, I think that we would get more money by having an extended period for this early bird discount. There are already examples of people saying that they simply will not come to Conference now, which would be a real shame.

  • Apart from anything else it’s a big kick in the teeth (again) for anyone still left working for the party who might want to come to conference given the way party paydays fall. I shouldn’t really be surprised by this, but every conference I still am.

  • If someone can’t afford to pay the £60 rate until after payday it would actually be cheaper for them to go to Wonga and pay them back after payday. That’s neither a suggestion nor a defence – just a simple fact!

  • It is monstrous stupidity to have such a short early bird period only notified during an election campaign and ending before polling day.

    For a start why wasn’t this rate announced months ago? Why was only a week allowed in which to register at the lowest rate? There was no end of hue and cry in the past at the senselessness of diverting activists like that during an election campaign with deadlines like this, as well as the very valid payday points that Caron makes.

    Is the party run by people who actually care about our electoral success or by thoughtless bureaucrats?

  • In fact, Jennie about the only people I know who aren’t affected by the payday argument are party staff. They have been paid for this month already. I speak as a former staff member.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Apr '16 - 1:41am

    Excellent concern from Caron , and particularly amongst comments ,from Jennie.

    I go further , as someone self employed counting pennies too often , it is not just the pay day that is only important , it is the policy of such early and brief discounts and the principle of how little the discount and how much the cost !

    The party needs to move to briefer and cheaper conferences , online interaction and combined voting that way , as well as getting the party rich list who have been parliamentarians to give percentages of income as a membership fee or donation as a given , literally !.

  • Zoe O'connell 25th Apr '16 - 8:17am

    Andrew Wiseman and Conference Office staff are looking into the financial implications of an extension. Conference Office do not work on the weekends, except at conference and for FCC meetings, so unsurprisingly, there has been no progress since Friday.

    Conference has long made a profit for the party, but the amount of profit we are required to make is set by Federal Executive – not Federal Conference Committee. Whilst the money goes to a good cause, (Electing more liberals!) if we were allowed to run the event break-even we would be able to offer member registrations at a fraction of the cost.

    Given Caron is a member of FE, which approves the requirement for FCC to make money for the party and cut the conference budget, the “up for election” comment above is disingenous and cheap. The view from FCC is that FE regards conference as a cash cow rather than as the supreme decision-making body of a democratic party, and comments such as these only reinforce that view.

  • Nigel Quinton 25th Apr '16 - 9:46am

    What Colin said. Personally I have enough trouble keeping up with anything outside of my work and the election and expect that to continue until May 6th.

    The idea that Caron’s suggestion to extend the early bird discount until May 9th (say) would have any impact on the profitability of the conference are laughable. The only commercial argument that would have credibility would be if FCC needed receipts by 27th April in order to pay a particular bill – in which case they should have acted MUCH sooner.

  • Moral; don’t make offers in this Party; you’ll offend more than you please. Sigh.

  • Adam Pritchard 25th Apr '16 - 11:42am

    Oh great, an earlier bird rate, fantastic, thanks for making me aware.

  • @ Zoe O’Connell

    “Conference has long made a profit for the party, but the amount of profit we are required to make is set by Federal Executive – not Federal Conference Committee. Whilst the money goes to a good cause, (Electing more liberals!) if we were allowed to run the event break-even we would be able to offer member registrations at a fraction of the cost.”

    In two years time it will be a century since the Representation of the People Act (1918) abolished many of the remaining property qualifications to be qualified as an elector (males over 31 and women over 30). It was a major step on the route to the universal franchise.

    How odd that the Liberal Democrats Federal Executive insists on making a profit out of an illiberal principle – that the party’s democratic principal decision making body (Conference) should be limited to an electorate who can afford to turn up because they wish to turn a profit for the privilege.

    By all means cover the true costs – but imagine the outcry if H.M. Government charged the electorate if they wished to cast a vote.

  • typo male 21.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Apr '16 - 4:10pm

    David Raw

    Very well said , as I say sometimes , often with regard to , for example , the huge charges for visas imposed by New Labour and onwards , the business of government should not be to turn government into a business !

    The same can be said for our party and the conference !

  • I find this whole argument quite odd. Firstly, there was some advance notification that there would be a special rate for a short period of time. I certainly saw something and I am neither on a party committee not an obsessive reader of Lib Dem Voice. Secondly, people are talking as if filling in a short on line form would be an impossible task to manage close to an election. Given that most of us also manage to hold down jobs, do household stuff, eat, breathe etc.. I don’t think being asked to click on an e mail is a big thing. Caron is right though about the timing and if the window ran a little past pay day that would help those for whom that is a factor. The whole tone of some of this seems to be to complain about an extra bit of help that (some say) was unexpected. If I was on FCC I would by now be seriously questioning why I gave up my time as a volunteer to do the work.

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