Federal People Development Committee Report – 20 March 2018

The Federal People Development Committee met on 20th March for our Spring meeting.

We started with the usual staff reports from the Heads of Training, Diversity and Membership. We were delighted to welcome Greg Foster to the meeting in his new role of Head of Membership and Engagement. Despite only starting that week he had a full and fascinating report for us about the new innovations the Department is trialling with member communications, like the recent survey and chatbot pilots.

We congratulated Greg, and Rachel Palma-Randle as Director, for the membership retention rate this quarter reaching 93%. That’s down to a lot of hard work across the team, and deserves applause.

The committee was also very pleased to see the report from Dan Purchese as Head of Training, outlining the anticipated training provision over the next 18 months. It was particularly good to see that he is planning to reinvigorate the network of volunteer trainers, working in close co-ordination with Sarah Green and the Training Subcommittee. We are all very hopeful that this renewal of the partnership between staff and volunteers in the training field will bring a lot more training into life.

Arfan Bhatti as Head of Diversity in HQ reported on the drop in the number of women applying for PPC approval compared to 2017, and agreed that he would look into this more to see if trends can be identified and remedies proposed. He also reported on the proposal of creating candidate diversity targets for regions, that feeds into some of the other diversity work being developed in the Party. 

This meeting was the first update from Jim Williams on the Your Liberal Britain projects. FPDC was given political oversight of YLB’s projects by the Federal Board. That means that we cannot direct YLB, but can ask questions, express concern and make suggestions. The committee asked Jim a lot of questions, reflecting the volume of work that YLB is undertaking. Some of the questions asked for the successful materials that are being developed to be shared more widely. Other questions asked for more transparency about how decisions are being made, or shared concerns about some of the processes, particularly around the “Expert advisory groups” that are being set up. Jim welcomed all the questions and answered each in turn. He then also invited the committee to contact him between reports if they had any other concerns or queries.

We then moved on to three diversity related agenda items; on the Alderdice Report, tackling transphobia in the Party and providing support to local parties to support disabled activists and candidates. The common theme of all three was the idea that we need to help the Party move to a much more inclusive way of working, throughout the Party structures.

Taking the Alderdice Report first, Miranda Roberts as Chair had written a paper to go to the Federal Board away day on ideas for how FPDC could help implement a culture change in the Party to make us more inclusive of our BAME members. FPDC welcomed the paper and agreed that the ideas were all sound, but noted that some did need extra resources (either money or staff time) if they were to be implemented. We agreed to await the decisions of the Federal Board, and then prioritise actions at our next meeting, factoring in what the rest of the Party would be working on.

Next we had a discussion about the sad rise of transphobic discussions being started by Liberal Democrat members on social media. We approved a paper that laid out some actions we can take to try to help educate members about the harm that is caused by these “debates”, and provide ways for members to better inform themselves about the topic. You will be seeing more about all this soon.

Lastly, we had contact from a local party that had been struggling to support their disabled members in becoming more active. The local party concerned wanted to be inclusive, but were just not sure how to do it in practical terms, and what options were available to them. The disabled member concerned was left feeling unwanted and stepped back from activity. We agreed that our FPDC Diversity Subcommittee should work with colleagues in the Lib Dem Disability Association to draw up a guide for local parties, outlining the practical kinds of steps that a local party can and should take, and outlining best practice when it comes to having conversations about physical challenges and what adjustments an individual needs in order to participate in political activity.

We next meet in June, when hopefully there will be a lot more exciting progress to share with you.

* Miranda Roberts is the Former Chair of Federal People Development Committee 2017-2020.

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9 Comments

  • Are there figures for the drop in women coming forward for approval? Very worrying.

    Also any progress on maternity leave and other specific support for female candidates?

  • Great to get an update on where things are.

    Training has long been massively under-invested in. We can’t just have one paid person looking at training for over 100k members, staff and elected politicians. The online training for Connect alone is massively out of date. The majority of volunteer trained trainers in the party are never used or are massively underused and their skills are never updated – so good to see there may be some progress on this. The danger is that it lasts a year or less and then something else becomes the priority and we’re back to the drawing board because the resource isn’t there.

    We definitely need some thought and investment put into the whole training piece asap and ideally a 3/4 year plan across everything – that is then properly resourced. If we don’t do it now another general election or by-election will come around and we’ll have to start again.

  • paul barker 28th Mar '18 - 1:46pm

    Thank you for all the hard work being done, mostly by upaid volounteers.
    Is there any chance that we could have regular (quarterly ?) announcements on LDV of up to date Membership figures ? Sorry to suggest more work but it would be useful.

  • Ruth – we are getting the figures but don’t have them yet. It may be that once we see the exact numbers things are not as bad as they seem – or there may indeed be cause for concern. That’s what we are looking into now. I agree that any drop would be worrying, we want numbers to be increasing! Work is already being planned to put more effort into encouraging women to apply for approval, and that will go ahead regardless. But if there is something holding women back this year, that needs investigation and an appropriate remedy. I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to about maternity leave, this isn’t something that is currently in progress in FPDC – is it a policy issue you’re thinking of, or something about the Party’s internal processes?

    CQ – thank you for your comments about the positive developments in the training area. We absolutely aim to move to a position where there are plans that look ahead through a 4 year cycle.

  • OnceALibDem 28th Mar '18 - 4:20pm

    “Next we had a discussion about the sad rise of transphobic discussions being started by Liberal Democrat members on social media. We approved a paper that laid out some actions we can take to try to help educate members about the harm that is caused by these “debates”, and provide ways for members to better inform themselves about the topic. ”

    Should there not be disciplinary action considered or taken in at least some of those cases?

  • Paul – I will ask the Membership team and Committee and see if this could work.

    Once a Lib Dem – yes absolutely. But a lot of comments are upsetting without being something that rates a disciplinary action. That is the area where we are going to try to change things. Remarks in any forum that are transphobic (or racist, or offensively discriminatory in some other way) should continue to be reported to the Party, investigated and appropriate disciplinary actions taken.

  • Hi Miranda, the party does not give candidates any rights to maternity leave. As a PPC who has been a “victim” of this (I received 48 hours maternity leave with my first baby) and consequently did not stand again I have been banging on about this for a decade and drafted some guidelines which I believe Candidates’ Committee considered at Southport.

    All credit to those who train and empower female candidates but all the training in the world will come to nought without basic support like maternity leave.

  • Ruth – thanks for explaining, this is the first I have heard of proposals to move forward on this, but I am glad to hear that there are some discussions happening. I will see if I can find out what progress was made at Southport by the Candidates Committee and see what the plans are from here on.

  • OnceALibDem 29th Mar '18 - 1:25pm

    “Once a Lib Dem – yes absolutely. But a lot of comments are upsetting without being something that rates a disciplinary action.”

    Possibly – but it’s hard to see how this (in the context we are talking about here) would constitute “treating others with respect” which is a constitutional duty of members.

    You did refer to “transphobic discussions being started by Liberal Democrat members on social media” and then said, “Remarks in any forum that are transphobic (or racist, or offensively discriminatory in some other way) should continue to be reported to the Party, investigated and appropriate disciplinary actions taken.”

    Of the comments that were highlighted at this meeting how many have now been reported for disciplinary action (which can require things like education etc) because it does sound from comments like, “We approved a paper that laid out some actions we can take to try to help educate members about the harm that is caused by these “debates”, and provide ways for members to better inform themselves about the topic.” that this is not being treated as seriously as other behaviour would be.

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