Nick Harvey writes…Reorganisation at Lib Dem HQ

Party members may have read on political websites that Lib Dem HQ is in the process of carrying out a reorganisation, which sadly will see a reduction in the number of staff at our headquarters. 

In common with both other parties we have seen a dip in our income in the year after an election, made all the more acute after two elections (and a referendum) in two years. Donation fatigue and lower revenues are understandable at this point.

This is a phenomenon we have seen many times before.  Politics is a cyclical business, with parties consolidating after elections and then building up again before the next.  We don’t know when an election will come, but the financial pressures are here and now and sadly we must act. Parting company with some of our staff is a painful process for everyone, but we owe a big debt of gratitude to those who will move on to new challenges.

There are big battles ahead, so we must focus our resources to continue leading the fight against Brexit in the last stages of the campaign for a People’s Vote.  Next May brings the biggest round of local elections, and the opportunity to build on the momentum of gaining seats in last year’s General Election, the best local elections this year in 15 years and winning seats in council by-elections across the country 

The need for the Lib Dems is greater than ever.  Theresa May is making a hash of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn is going along with her. The Conservatives have taken their eyes off our schools, hospitals and tackling climate change to fight amongst themselves over Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas hark back to a bygone era.

Liberal Democrats demand better than this and are taking on power and privilege to build a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. 

But to live up to these ambitions we must marshal our available firepower to prioritise winning votes and seats.

Huge thanks are owed to all our committed staff for keeping things going through some difficult times and setting us on the road to recovery and beyond. 

The remaining HQ team, and our greatly expanded party membership, will redouble our efforts to carry the political battle into 2019 and beyond.

* Sir Nick Harvey was the Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon from 1992 until 2015 and Minister of State for the Armed Forces from 2010 to 2012

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24 Comments

  • “In common with both other parties we have seen a dip in our income in the year after an election”

    Since this is a phenomenon that occurs for every party after every election, surely it should be expected and able to be planned for without need for redundancies.

  • Martin Land 2nd Nov '18 - 9:47pm

    Nice to let us know 24 hours after everyone else
    Why weren’t we briefed in advance? With 100,000 members an appeal might have been in order. You’d be surprised how well people respond to being consulted and involved. It’s called participation. Look it up, it’s a Lib Dem policy.

  • “Party members may have read on political websites that Lib Dem HQ is in the process of carrying out a reorganisation”

    Well of course. Like with the proposed supporters scheme, why should I expect to hear it direct from the party first?

  • Annoyed Member 3rd Nov '18 - 8:09am

    Amazing how we’re having to make redundancies and reduce core function but we’re still finding huge amounts of money for Canadian Snake Oil Salesmen to tell us how to set up a supporters scheme that will cure all our ills any day now

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 3rd Nov '18 - 8:39am

    I do feel that we are not being told the whole story here, and I would agree with Martin Land that members should have been informed about the situation much earlier.
    There has been a considerable increase in the party’s membership over the last three years, so surely it should follow that the party should be in a more secure position financially. How did the situation become so dire that, according to some reports, twenty percent of the party’s staff have been made redundant?
    The Labour Party has recently been criticised for its treatment of its staff, despite its supposed commitment to workers’ rights. Sadly, it seems that our own party has also failed to put its principles into practice in its role as an employer.
    I feel very sorry for these staff, who have no doubt worked tirelessly and loyally for the party, but have not received the same loyalty in return.

  • David Evans 3rd Nov '18 - 9:06am

    I echo what Martin and Libby say. Sadly our leaders still treat problems as failings and so keep things to themselves rather than open up early and look to the wisdom and help of the wider Lib Dem family to help sort things out. We only ever get to see the end of crisis and the leadership’s chosen answer to the crisis, in an attempt to pretend that they are in total control and are solving all our problems for us. They aren’t. They are making things worse.

    This “Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about things,” is simply totally illiberal. It is yet another example of how so many of us, and it pains me to say it, Just like all the other parties, would rather do anything than admit to getting things wrong, and look for help from others to improve.

  • Just to record my full agreement with the comments made. In particular the fact that it is essential that we find a way of having a participative democracy in our party. We need to stop the smokescreen of the registered supporters scheme and start to facilitate a discussion where we are as a party, where we want to go and how to get there.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Nov '18 - 11:53am

    What I can’t understand is that we all receive lots of emails asking for money for campaigns, but never get one asking for regular donations for running our organisation. What about all these new methods of fundraising? Why have we not got people solely dedicated to raising money to run our party machine? With £10 from each member we’d have over £1 million to devote to building a better election focussed machine, that’s less than £1 a month. Why have we not asked our members to increase their monthly subs by £1 or their annual membership by £10 instead of issuing redundancy notices.
    Our organisation and its leaders are letting us down by not doing this.

  • There’s an article above about “joined-up thinking”. It seems to me that the expense in teatime and money involved in setting up a scheme which would give “supporters” (who pay no membership fees) basically all the rights of fully-paid-up members could hardly be justified. It might also be expected to lead to a further decline in income as some members will surely choose the cheaper option and sign up as supporters rather than members…

  • Wouldn’t a party headquarters outside of London be MUCH cheaper and also fit well with Liberal policy on devolution?

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Nov '18 - 12:05pm

    I think that we should all be told just how much that great white elephant that is 8-10 Great George Street is costing the Party. London Region Lib Dems moved out of Cowley Street back in 2011 to a site south of the river, why was it essential for the Federal Party HQ to stay within a stone’s throw of Parliament?

  • Raymond Adams 3rd Nov '18 - 1:20pm

    Can I first say that I agree 100% with all the comments so far – but I notice that nobody is making any practical proposals for tackling the shortage of cash to run our HQ.

    It strikes me that the Party should now follow the BBC and save a fortune by moving our HQ north – possibly sharing a building with ALDC.

    In these days of instant online communication, I can see no justification for the old arguments about ‘we need to be near Westminster’.

  • Tony Greaves 3rd Nov '18 - 4:11pm

    If ALDC have any sense they will continue to stay well away from party HQ, wherever that may be.

  • Martin Walker 3rd Nov '18 - 10:03pm

    I opened this article, having found out about the cuts at LDHQ via social media, pleased that, as a Lib Dem member, I was going to be able – belatedly – to understand the impact of the redundancies – which areas were being prioritised, which areas were being cut, etc. Instead I discovered that Theresa May is making a hash of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn is going along with her.

  • I understand the frustration about finding out these things via social media first, but surely it’s only right that the people directly impacted by this (the staff) get to hear about it first. The fact that someone then leaked it to a political blog, who then spread a sensationalist version of events is the responsibility of whoever did the leaking.

    Yes, the party communications team seem to have been caught on the back-foot, but it would have been far worse, IMO, if an email had gone out to members before the relevant staff had been informed and had a chance to discuss what it means.

    I can’t claim to understand party funding, but presume we might be suffering the consequences of losing so many MPs, and we’ve been eating into party funds to delay reducing the number of support staff accordingly. I also wonder if a lot of the random extra donations that might have been directed towards the party coffers from members and general supporters are instead going towards non-LibDem campaign groups that campaign on LibDem issues, such as the People’s Vote for a vote on the Brexit deal, or Make Votes Matter for electoral reform.

    I am surprised there has been no call for donations, but if this is a structural problem, then it could just be delaying the inevitable, with the aspiration that reserves need to be protected for future campaigns.

  • Chris Butler 4th Nov '18 - 12:56pm

    This completely fails to explain why only a few weeks ago new posts at LDHQ were being advertised. It appears grossly incompetent to move from expanding the staff team to reducing it within a matter of weeks and it must be a particularly awful time for any new members of staff. Given the amount of anti Brexit businesspeople throwing money at centrist venues, to blame donor fatigue for the party’s woes looks completely disingenuous. If something else has gone on here I hope those with the power in the party will address it and make sure lessons are learned rather than continue to sweep matters under the carpet.

  • OnceALibDem 5th Nov '18 - 10:23pm

    The report passed by members (ultimately liable for any party debts) didn’t give this impression. So much for members being in charge of how the party is run.

    Today was the Channel 4 Brexit special – no Lib Dem (the fact they ran this without one speaks volumes for the lack of credibility the party has) – and nothing on twitter from Vince.

    I’ve had messages saying this is the most ambitious campaign the Lib Dems have run outside of a general election and they have “Sent 355,000 target letters to voters” That’s what around 25 constituencies would have been expected to do every 3 months or so back the day so so short of the most ambitious campaign ever its ridiculous.

    I’m starting to think Vince is right. The party is moribund and finished, a new figurehead untainted by the past, backed up with a supporters network ground in reality not fantasy politics will produce an effective force.

  • David Evans 6th Nov '18 - 12:14am

    I think there is some misunderstanding about the main point here. If the problems had been raised and discussed by members *before* it became a crisis, members could have helped provide more money and so avert some if not all of the redundancies.

    It is not about telling members before those staff affected, it is about telling members so that staff are not affected.

  • David Evershed 6th Nov '18 - 11:10am

    We still have not been given the facts.

    Firstly
    What is our annual income and the sources ……
    and what is our annual expenditure and the categories?

    Secondly
    What is the plan for increasing income ……
    and what is the plan for reducing expenditure?

  • David Evershed 6th Nov '18 - 4:50pm

    Paul thanks for the link.

    The Lib Dem 2017 accounts are on the Electoral Commission web site at
    http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Accounts/Documents/20415

    The 2017 deficit was £744,164 compared with a 2016 surplus of £802,309

    The main reason for the decline was the £2.4m increase in campaign expenditure from £2.5m in 2016 to £4.9m in 2017. One off donations only went up by £0.8m help offset this increase in campaign spending.

    Membership increased from 78,336 to 97,403 in 2017 which meant subscriptions increased from £0.97 in 2016 to £1.28m in 2017.

    A bank loan of £0.5m filled the gap but was repayable in September 2018 and presumably explains the current need to reduce staff and other expenditure.

    It would seem the cause of the current predicament was the decision to spend as much as we did on the General Election campaign.

    Where is the balance between spending on particular campaigns versus spending on efforts to create more sustainable long term grass roots support?

  • OnceALibDem 8th Nov '18 - 8:00pm
  • Neil Sandison 9th Nov '18 - 1:33pm

    Nick Harvey appears to be the messenger giving the bad news of poor financial management at HQ. Its very sad news for our hard working staff and i hope they are successful in finding new careers and will not think too harshly of the party .But i would agree with other members seeing accounts at conference is no way to advise the membership of any financial difficulties . Moving to more cost effective accomedation outside of London does seem a sensible option leaving our MPs, Lords and their staff in Westminster to deal with press releases on parliamentary business.

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