Interview with the new Chair of FCC – Geoff Payne – Part 2 of 3

Geoff Payne

Repeatedly I hear from members that they want more policy motions to be discussed at the conference and to hear directly from more of the senior figures in the party

Given that we only have a finite amount of agenda time, there can be a tension between those two things!  I agree that those are the priorities of many of our members though.  People do enjoy speeches from spokespeople but they also attend to debate policy.  I am committed to wringing as many minutes as we can from the agenda.  That said, there are other important aspects of a conference such as the fringe and training.  The challenge we have is to balance the competing demands of them all

What will you do to encourage more AO’s and SAO’s to be at the party conferences especially as a lot of them are tight for funds

I completely understand the pressure on funds having chaired an SAO.  When I was Vice-Chair of FCC, I developed an agreement with many party bodies to enable more of them to take advantage of the concessionary party body rate for the exhibition and fringe.  We are going to continue that and are always interesting in hearing ideas about how we can make the experience better for them.  Many of them hold their Annual General Meetings at the conference and I really want to encourage that.  SAOs and AOs are part of the lifeblood of the party and they belong at the conference.

Do you have any plans to assist new members or members who have not attend a conference to attend?

This is a real priority for us.

For this Autumn, we wish to encourage as many members as possible to attend – so that all members have the opportunity to participate in our democratic process and vote on our policy motions, but also to strengthen our recovery in the months and years ahead. Therefore, if anyone reading this has any Lib Dem friends that have not previously attended Autumn Conference, please do encourage them to register and you will benefit from them attending.  For every new attendee referred, receive 10% off of your registration fee (up to a maximum of 30%) refunded after the conference. This scheme obviously cannot be used in conjunction with any other concession rates.  You can learn more about this initiative here:  https://www.libdems.org.uk/refer_a_friend

First-time attendees always get a warm welcome.  We offer special tours of the venue and a first-timers fringe meeting.

 

We have nearly 100k members why do you think we are unable to get even say 8000 members to attend a single conference

Getting more people to attend is our biggest challenge.  Although, to be fair, our ratio of members to conference attendees is not dissimilar to other parties – but we are not complacent.  It is right that the venues we book have a finite capacity. York is one of our most popular but it can be a bit of a squeeze for us.  We do take having a hall large enough to accommodate everyone very seriously though even to the extent that we have commissioned overflow areas in the past – although as it happens, we have not had to use them.  We even had contingency plans to allow us to count the overflow area in the event of a counted vote!  When selecting venues, we try and ensure a proper geographical balance – that is why we have been to Glasgow, Liverpool, Brighton, Bournemouth, York and Southport in recent memory.

Is there any mileage in making the conference much cheaper so attendance goes up (hence the cheap attendance fees is balanced by higher attendance);

We have kept registration fees as low as we can and have frozen the claimant rate for some time.  Many people find that the cost of the conference comes largely in the form of accommodation and time off work but of course, I accept that the fees can be an issue.  We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of attending and select venues with that in mind.  For example, some of our venues have a better range of competitively priced accommodation than others.

 

 

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

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This entry was posted in Interviews and Op-eds.
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One Comment

  • We’re thinking about this the wrong way round. How can someone on a low or even medium income travel hundreds of miles, pay for a hotel at expensive rates, and arrange childcare, even if ticket prices are reduced for them? Why aren’t we doing much more of the conference and voting online and digitally? I thought this was our new age of tech, but conference is still same old same old.

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