Federal Policy Committee report February 2020

Our latest meeting covered a range of policy issue discussions and future planning items.

One of our main discussion items was on potential topics for future policy motions and spokespersons’ papers beyond the scheduled policy papers being developed through our working groups. The Federal Policy Committee is keen to support and encourage other parts of the party to develop policy motions to enable a range of current issues to be taken to conference. Recently we’ve worked in collaboration with spokespeople to take forward motions on tourism, rehabilitation of offenders, and rail. We considered a range of policy topics including modern slavery & trafficking, international development, childhood, planning policy and housing, specific areas of transport policy, small business, tech/AI, and arts/culture.

We discussed these options and others considering what could be worked up in time for Autumn conference and what would provide strong messages to support us in the elections in May 2021. Based on the feedback we’ll engage with spokespeople and relevant SAOs/AOs and other party bodies to progress the ideas. We also looked ahead to start thinking about some future topics for working groups and this is a discussion that will continue.

We had an initial discussion about an idea tabled by Tony Greaves on a piece of work to address the so-called left behind areas of the country, taking a bottom up approach led by our councillors and campaigners in these communities. There was a lot of support for such an initiative but some questions around timing and resourcing that will need to be considered further.

Following Federal Conference Committee’s decision to set aside time for a topical debate on Europe in York, we had a further discussion about what shape a future policy on Europe might take. We agreed that FPC’s role in the York session is to be fully in listening mode, and that as the issue develops it’s essential to have wider consultation beyond conference.

We reviewed a draft campaign brief prepared to support Liberal Democrat Police and Crime Commissioner campaigns. Although FPC doesn’t have a formal role in developing manifestos for the PCC elections, it was an opportunity to continue developing the link between policy and campaigning. The brief draws heavily on the top lines in last year’s ‘United Against Crime’ policy paper and we discussed how to make sure our messages were distinctly Liberal Democrat.

We continued to plan our consultation session at York on Liberal Democrat Principles and Values which I’d like to give a big plug for – 3pm-5pm, Friday 13 March in the Novotel. We’ll also be running the Manifesto feedback consultation on Saturday afternoon in the auditorium.

Finally, we had a bit of internal committee business to deal with. We agreed to appoint Richard Hebditch as the chair of the Natural Environment working group. Rick had previously been appointed as vice chair, with Sarah Whitebread as chair, but due to changes in her employment, Sarah has had to step down.

Sarah Ludford was elected as our representative on the Federal International Relations Committee and as one of our two delegates to both the ALDE Congress and Liberal International Congress. We welcomed new FPC members Olly Craven (English Party rep), Alec Dauncey (Welsh Party rep), Adele Morris (LGA rep), and Phil Bennion (FIRC chair). And we thanked outgoing members, giving particular thanks to Peter Price who had achieved 21 years’ continuous years’ service on FPC and will be much missed.

* Sally Burnell is one of the vice chairs of Federal Policy Committee.

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  • I hope Tony Greaves’ suggestion can be developed into a full analysis and policy response to growing poverty and inequality in the UK as set out in the Alston, UN Report last Summer, and the report on falling life expectancy in the UK published this week.

    “Austerity blamed for life expectancy stalling for first time in 100 years The Guardian-25 Feb 2020….. Life expectancy has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and … The increase in life expectancy at birth in England began to slow……

    The Party has been to slow to respond or campaign on these issues.

  • Can anyone here stop the Lib Dem council in Bath from doing something really stupid? Other avenues got nowhere, hence writing here in desperation.

  • Sally, pleased to hear that you want to get other parts of the party involved in policy development. The Conservative party has a Conservative Policy Forum, where policy papers are sent out to local groups who then feed back their response. Apart from anything else, this does give a voice to those who for whatever reason can’t make it to conferences.
    Is the any reason why we can’t do something similar ?

  • nigel hunter e 27th Feb '20 - 2:29pm

    Chris Cory. That is an EXCELLENT idea.

  • William Wallace 27th Feb '20 - 2:34pm

    A working group of LIbDem peers produced a fairly lengthy report on the ‘left behind’ two years ago, which was forwarded to the FPC – which did not appear to consider this to be an important problem. I’m sorry that the FPC has again given the impression that this issue, which is one of deprivation, inequality, neglect of former industrial areas, and missed opportunities for another generation of British citizens, ought not to be one of the central issues in British politics. Those of us who have spent our lives campaigning in these areas, neglected by Labour and Conservatives alike, will be hoping to make local election gains in 2020 and 2021. We should not drift into becoming a party of the educated and professional areas of our cities; we have to appeal more widely than that.

  • To start this LibDem Policy Forum we could start with housing. Re more housing of modular type. Houses built in flood plains may be able to be used if on stilts or garage underneath and house above. Also homeless who need an ADDRESS so they can start rebuilding their lives.This could be by building small modular homes One bedroom owned by councils (rental purposes as they re build lives and move out. These small units can then be re-rented. That can be a basis of a policy that could be sent to local groups to discuss which can be built on by the MP’s and party.
    Get rid of the bua.rocracy that drowns the party and streamline it.

  • Sally Burnell 27th Feb '20 - 3:28pm

    Thanks Chris Cory. I’m chairing a small sub group of FPC looking at wider member engagement. I’ll take your idea to that group. Through our SAOs and AOs we’re doing a bit of what you suggest but it could definitely be much better and that’s something we’re looking at too. If you have any detail about the Conservative Policy Forum that you could share please post here or send to me at [email protected] Thanks!

  • My local party would love Chris Cory’s suggestion. We have regular policy meetings but tend to concentrate on writing motions and amendments, which can be a frustrating business at times. It would be great to be able to feed comments directly back to a policy working group or the FPC.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Feb '20 - 6:17pm

    I share the concerns about the apparent lack of urgency in addressing the problems of the ‘left behind’.

    Along with climate change this should be at the top of the agenda.

    FPC needs to think radical for a change.

  • Thank you Sally, Nigel and Mary for your positive comments. It would require a little organisation (but not too much) and a commitment from our leadership to take on board ideas and respond. Sally, give me a day or two and I will send you what I know of the Tories PF – we cant have them outdoing us when it comes to internal policy consultation !

  • FPC appears resolutely determined to remain part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

  • David Becket 27th Feb '20 - 10:12pm

    I canot see FPC thinking radically.

  • Sally Burnell 27th Feb '20 - 10:30pm

    William Wallace – completely agree. Your ‘left behind’ paper was discussed by FPC, including at our away day, and it directly influenced our paper on ‘A fairer share for all’ (eg the policy on the £50bn rebalancing fund). There’s clearly more to be done. FPC very much welcomed Tony Greaves’ paper (and is v interested in doing some policy work on it) but what the paper was proposing goes beyond the remit of just FPC so we need to speak to some others about how that could be resourced.

    Chris Cory – great! thank you and look forward to more info.

  • Gwyn Williams 28th Feb '20 - 11:08am

    I would like to add my thanks to Peter Price for his work, sound advice and wisdom over many years. The Welsh Policy Committee just would not have functioned without him.

    On Alison’s comment, if Councils received directly any part of the gain from development land there would be a huge incentive for them to give planning permission even if it was contrary to the Development Plan.

  • Sally Burnell, I am disappointed that Willam Wallace’s paper was not widely circulated and discussed; likewise Tony Greave’s. On the latter, what do you mean by doing some policy work on it ? One of our difficulties is that we build up loads of policy details but never get to a good meaty overall message that can be summarised for general public consumption. Does Tony’s paper come from the heart involving campaigning and contact with the public and therefore overflows beyond technical policy details ?
    If it does then that should be welcomed and not be the cause of difficulties !!
    We need to develop further policies that provide joined up thinking; e.g. inequality covers education, welfare, housing, and health. Another difficulty is the working of the FCC alongside FPC. I was frustrated a couple of years ago when an amendment expressing the influence of other services on a child’s development was not accepted for a motion on Education; that is silly when there is loads of evidence that what goes on in school is hugely affected by factors outside. Joined up thinking is vital if we are to communicate with the public. We also need to focus more on big issues and allow more general debate at conference, especially at the moment, with less time on the technicalities of policy that only a government can implement.
    Then, I cannot see the point of a session at conference on the manifesto that most people outside will not have read. That time could be better spent on a general discussion of people’s concerns and party priorities of all sorts, not just policy, for us NOW and over the next few years.
    I am starting to agree with those who feel the radical change needed in the party is not about to happen. We are too set in our ways.

  • Whatever happened to localism ?

    In 2010 I understand Cumbria County Council received £ 148 million in national government block grant. Last year it was £ 14 million. The Council deals with social care, children’s services, local transport, libraries and many other personal services. But it has been defenestrated. Whatever happened to the old Liberal themes of personal dignity and maintaining viable communities ?

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Feb '20 - 2:36pm

    Sally, first of all thank you very much for your report. I agree with others who are disappointed with the party’s response to the issues of poverty and would support a positive response to Tony Greaves paper. Regional poverty is reflected in the recent statistics for life expectancy, teachers are trying to help pupils whose poverty affects their education and the connection between ill health and poverty has been known about since I first became active in politics in the 80s.
    I’d also like to support Nigel Jones’ appeal for joined up thinking. The policies that you mention don’t seem to have any connection with each other. Does the Federal Board provide a strategic view of policy development which is then passed to the FPC? Who is developing our program for the twenties? Who is coming up with our broad based solution to the climate crisis and then seeing through the development of detailed policies in every area to back this up? Who is keeping an eye on the effects of the corona virus on the NHS and our economy?
    It often seems to me that when we develop policy it’s as if we come in halfway through a discussion, just responding to the policies of the government of the time, not providing a Lib Dem pathway to the sort of society we want to achieve. I agree with empirical policy making but we also need a goal in sight, otherwise we just end up with a list of the best policies that’s bewildering in its lack of direction. When not even the members can remember that we have a policy that deals with issues they are interested in, how can we expect the general public to understand what we want to achieve.
    I realise that you are not responsible for these failings, Sally, but I’ve taken the opportunity your report offered to express my concerns.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Feb '20 - 3:28pm

    Let’s LEAD on policy for once, as you ask, Sue, and let’s have the joined-up thinking Nigel Jones keeps on requesting. Nigel is right, INEQUALITY includes several important themes including welfare, health, education and housing among others, and we should be taking a lead on this, now and at York, instead of waiting for the Labour party to get its act together. I am going to ask our party to embrace and endorse the new Marmot report, ten years on, on growing health inequality = see an article about this to be posted here later this afternoon. The Marmot report clearly shows the wider implications of the growing health inequality, such as Nigel suggests, with a new focus on POVERTY. It also discusses regional disparities – the worsening health and life expectancy of people, especially women, in the north-east, so we could probably tie this in with Tony Greaves’s proposals, as I will hope.

  • Fred Orme re 27th Feb. What is Bath council thinking of which is stupid (only just noticed).

  • n hunter – Bath & North East Somerset Lib Dem controlled council is just about to make it really difficult for a hospital in Bath to function.
    I have written to the council. I have written to the Bath Chronicle and my letter was published. But the council is going ahead anyway. We never had this problem when the Conservatives were running the council.

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