Federal People Development Committee report – 28th June 2018

This was a rather unusual meeting, in that it was dominated by one very large agenda item, discussing the idea of a registered supporters scheme. In fact, for the first time, we applied our 9pm meeting guillotine and postponed some other discussions to our July meeting.

We started in the normal way with staff reports. The committee was enormously impressed by the retention rates the Membership team have achieved this quarter, currently standing at 94.5%. That’s a fantastic achievement, and a credit to the team’s hard work. The Membership team have also started tracking Exit data – reasons why people have decided to leave. This is a really helpful innovation. It will be shared with State Parties but not beyond that for now, as it is obviously quite sensitive data. The team agreed to consider whether there was a way to share the data with local parties, but we need to find a reliable, secure system to do that and this is a brand new metric we are monitoring. I’ll let you know if that starts to be filed somewhere that local parties can view it. 

We did also note the changes to the Membership Incentive scheme – essentially this model gives a percentage of each member’s joining subscription back to the local party they live in. The system is being changed to reward renewal as well as recruitment, with a portion of subscription fees being paid to local parties in the second and third year of a person’s membership.

The Training team are doing great work too. The Autumn Conference training schedule is in the last stages of being finalised. They have slightly changed the process for allocating training sessions this year. All providers were asked to bid for courses, and given themes that the training should focus upon. Then everyone’s ideas were collated and where more than one provider wanted to run a course, they were asked to join forces, collaborate and present a joint course. We are also welcoming some new providers, to expand the training offer that members can enjoy at conference. It’s exciting to see this coming together so well and we will be monitoring feedback closely after conference to see if participants enjoy these co-presented sessions.

The Diversity and Candidates team are currently without a “Head”, as the recruitment of a replacement for Arfan Bhatti is not yet concluded. However they still submitted a report, and we were delighted to hear of some very pro-active ideas for measures that could improve diversity among our approved candidates. We look forward to more concrete suggestions once the team leader is in place.

Then we came to the largest agenda item, the idea of a registered supporters scheme.

This idea has been knocking around for a long time in the Party. The eagle-eared among you may remember that Vince expressed a desire to introduce this scheme in his speech to Southport conference earlier this year. 

I’m going to cut a very long story short here, and say simply that the Federal Board discussed this and asked FPDC to look into the idea and produce some recommendations. Those recommendations will come to an informal consultation meeting for members at Brighton conference (provisionally on Saturday lunchtime) and we will make sure that there is an online way for people who can’t attend in person to feed in their thoughts too.

FPDC had a really interesting and constructive first discussion on this idea. Everyone was clear that any new initiative needs to be backed by research and data and not assumptions. There is a clear interest for everyone in engaging more people who share our values in our party. If the cost of being a registered supporter is free, or less than our minimum membership fee, it might also be easier for a more diverse range of people to afford. But obviously there are risks too, and we need to consider those carefully to ensure that if this goes ahead, it is done well, with a clear structure and offer that differs from membership.

Roughly two thirds of the committee were instinctively interested in pursuing this idea further, albeit with a wide range of views of exactly what kind of scheme would be appropriate. About a third of the committee had serious concerns and said they felt that they would need a lot more supporting data before they would feel comfortable endorsing any new scheme like this. We are going to be talking more about this at our meeting on 24th July, hopefully with some of the data and research that we have asked for. 

Our recommendations will come to that fringe meeting at conference, and then will come back to the Federal Board after that. If we end up recommending that supporters get any formal rights (like voting at any level in any party elections), then that will clearly come to a conference for a debate and vote.

One thought that was repeatedly expressed was that “Message Matters Most”. We can introduce all the new schemes we like, but if we do not accompany that with a clear, effective campaigning message, nothing else will succeed. As a result of this observation, we are going to ask our colleagues on FCEC (Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee) to give us an update on their work in this area, to ensure that we join these efforts together.

After this mammoth discussion we moved on to the summer report from Jim Williams of Your Liberal Britain. FPDC has advisory political oversight of YLB, but not control. There were a series of extremely long, complex questions for Jim, based on his report that explained that YLB were trying to slightly refocus their efforts. The questions were so long that there was not enough time left in the meeting for Jim to answer them properly, so it was agreed that Jim’s answers could be sent by email after the meeting. As the queries were so complex, this is also likely to give more satisfactory answers too. 

And with that, we were nearly at our guillotine time, so we postponed our other business to the July 24th meeting. Look out for our next meeting roundup soon after that!

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

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  • OnceALibDem 6th Jul '18 - 3:19pm

    Was there any progress on this (from the previous meeting in March):
    “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.”

  • @OnceALibDem – yes, the proposal is being implemented and is nearly ready, we are just making sure that we try to adjust to the feedback that we have been given. Should all be online in next couple of weeks I hope.

  • Thankyou Miranda. It’s always good to get updates from the party committees. However, ‘Federal People Development Committee’?? What kind of name is that? It makes me think of the ‘Quiet Bat People’ scene from The Thick of It! This might seem nitpicking or trivial but if we are going to present reports from our committees on public sites maybe we should consider how their names might appear to those who are not steeped in the internal traditions of the party.

  • @TonyH I didn’t choose the name, the Governance Review team chose it and Federal conference approved it! I quite agree that it’s not ideal, but with so much to do in our remit that’s urgent, changing the name has not made it to the top of the to-do list yet 🙂 One day!

  • @TonyH Out of curiosity, what name would you pick for the committee?

  • Peter Hirst 7th Jul '18 - 10:41am

    Though it’s important to be clear about the process and reasons for a scheme, it’s more important to get one up and running. I feel many people would like to show their allegiance to our ideas and join a free Supporters’ scheme. I think a system held jointly by Gt George Street and constituency MDO’s much like Gmail accounts held by mobile and desk top computer and either can alter it so it is based remotely might work.

  • OnceALibDem 8th Jul '18 - 7:04pm

    It just seems like really slow progress when stuff like this is going on:

  • Ruth Bright 8th Jul '18 - 9:08pm

    Miranda, elsewhere on LDV is a lovely mention of our Deputy Leader who is on maternity leave. One of our fantastic group leaders in London is on maternity leave. Can we be assured that after your next meeting there will, at last, be some protection and support for our parliamentary candidates should they wish to take maternity leave?

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