Getting our finances right – report back from February Board meeting

At our latest meeting, the Federal Board welcomed our newest member, Lisa Smart, who has been elected the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC), taking over from James Gurling. Welcome on Board, Lisa!

We also welcomed back to the Board Tony Harris as Registered Treasurer and Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) and Mike German as Federal Treasurer.

Details of the outcome of elections for other key posts around the party are available on the party website. Congratulations to everyone elected and thank you also to everyone else who applied, helping to give us a strong set of names to choose from.

After our January Board meeting agreed the timings and got the ball rolling on key elements for our success this year, such as an independent elections review and our leadership election, the Board concentrated this time in particular on the Federal Party’s budget.

To give some context, overall our income in 2020 will be around £6.5 million, which compares with £34 million for the Conservatives and £46 million for Labour in 2018.

After the surge in spending and staffing in the immediate run-up to the general election, the Board agreed that this year we need to return to a long-term sustainable level of staffing and expenditure. This means day-to-day spending matching income from members, donors and grants, with any surplus from last year ring-fenced to allow us to implement recommendations from the independent elections review and for one-off projects focused on transforming our capabilities.

While moving towards balancing day-to-day spending, between the two Board meetings, we’ve also agreed to prioritise certain key areas:
• Staffing the independent elections review so that it can do the effective job we need;
• Doubling the Federal Party’s contribution to the May local elections;
• Enhancing membership recruitment and retention via a project to improve how we look after members and supporters;
• Creating a new fund to support diversity projects;
• Supporting the Welsh Party as they gear up for the Senedd elections coming in 2021;
• Looking after our staff: for several years, staff pay has been frozen (real-terms pay cuts), which won’t be continued in 2020; and
• Increasing our long-term income by investing in membership recruitment around the leadership election and in boosting legacy income.

The choice of these priorities is all driven by our overall party strategy, as agreed at conference. We will start the process of reviewing and updating this later this year.

We also agreed on a raft of updates to how the Board runs its own business, such as our conflicts of interest policy and our standing orders. These sorts of items are rarely top of anyone’s priority list, but they’re an important step in ensuring the Board does its work to the standards members rightly should expect of us. If we make decisions badly, it’s members who bear the brunt – and that’s why we’re rightly focused on ensuring we improve how we operate on your behalf.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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3 Comments

  • William wallace 20th Feb '20 - 9:27am

    Thanks, Mark. Finance is key to effective campaigning, and our party’s relative lack of money in comparison to Labour and the Conservatives is a major factor in holding us back. Membership is an important part of raising funds; we don”t want to become dependent on small numbers of large donors,as the Conservatives are. We also suffer in terms of ideas and policy in comparison; right-wing think tanks, also generously funded, including from abroad. We have more active members than the Tories, but fewer millionaires! Their party is a well-funded centralised machine.

  • For the uninformed what is the difference between the federal treasurer and the nominated treasurer?

  • Peter Chambers 22nd Feb '20 - 12:16pm

    Good to see this business-like work.
    * long term spending based on long term income
    * fairness to staff – foundational
    * members and supporters – not only a source of revenue but also for engagement and activity
    The last one will be a challenge, as activity is always easier with a small number of engaged time-rich people than a large number of time-poor volunteers. However we have lots of people and not much money. Organising meaningful engagement is a good start.

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