Tag Archives: autumn conference 2016

Two ways we are addressing diversity

If there is one thing that we can all agree on is the need to encourage a greater degree of diversity within the party. Although our figures on diversity are far from where we want them to be, it is clear that we have begun to make some considerable strides towards adequately addressing this issue. There is an increasing recognition that if we are to herald ourselves as the defenders of equality and tolerance, then those values should be reflected within every aspect of our party. An important step towards this goal was the passing of two diversity and equality motions at Autumn Conference this year on Combatting Racism and Diversity Quotas, put forward by Pauline Pearce and Dawn Barnes respectively.

Summaries of both motions are outlined below:

Conference Motion Diversity Quotas

The motion has been put in place to increase the representation of those with protected characteristics on federal committees and bodies. The party will endeavor to ensure that:

  1. 40 % of those elected to a federal committee identify as men or non-binary, women or non-binary
  2. 10% shall be from minority backgrounds
  3. 10% shall be people from under-represented sexual orientations and gender identities including non-binary identities

Places on these bodies will be filled if the diversity requirements cannot be met or if an insufficient number of candidates with the required characteristic are nominated.

Both men and women will have an equal opportunity of participating at every level of the party in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, however the Act maybe amended to permit positive action to ensure that those from underrepresented groups are adequately represented within internal party bodies.

The full text of the motion is available here.

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Unwelcome behaviour at Conference

As a long time conference attendee, I adore the opportunity to meet Lib Dems, old and new, and engage and enthuse with like-minded people. But sometimes behaviour boundaries are pushed and we need to make a note of them to remind ourselves to challenge insidious sexist behaviour.

On the morning of Saturday 17th September, Lib Dems received a message from the Conference office entitled ‘Conference Guidelines’ which sets out details of what is unwanted behaviour.

Contemplating this, I thought it might be interesting to relate some unwelcome behaviour I encountered. I want to do this anonymously, but am aware others have noticed similar issues and feel it’s important we stand up to and challenge incidents like this when they occur.

On one day I attended the motion on Social Security. Now, it was a strong debate, with lots of opposing views. But when making those views, it should be noted it’s unacceptable to refer to a female speaker as “darlin’”, no matter how well you might know that individual. The language is sexist and patronising. While I believe the comment was made in an attempt at friendliness, it is still derrogatory and quite simply, should be wiped out. It’s on a par to David Cameron’s “calm down dear” episode at PMQs, and where we wouldn’t take the insult from the former Prime Minister, neither should we take it from friends or acquaintances. 

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Homelessness in 2016 – a fringe event in Brighton and how you can help

Homelessness FringeFollowing Saturday’s successful motion on tackling homelessness, London Liberal Democrats hosted a fringe event on homelessness in 2016. Despite being up against both Tim Farron and Nick Clegg fringes, the room was packed and it was standing room only at the back!
Alice Ashcroft from Crisis kicked off the debate by outline what is happening in Parliament, particularly focusing on the Homelessness Reduction Bill, more details of which are below. Councillor Jayne McCoy then outlined the problems local government faces when dealing with homelessness especially when facing budget cuts from the Government.
Simon Grainge then described the work of Emmaus which has 28 communities across the UK housing over 750 people. Emmaus believes overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head. That’s why Emmaus supports people to work their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work as well a stable home for as long as someone needs it. Emmaus also helps the state and society as for every £1 spent with Emmaus, there is an £11 return on investment, with social, environmental and economic benefits.
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In full: Tim Farron’s speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

Here is the full text of Tim Farron’s speech to Conference being delivered at the moment:

Liberal Democrats are good at lots of things. But the thing it seems that we’re best at, is confounding expectations.

We were expected to shy away from taking power, but we stepped up and we made a difference.

We were expected to disappear after the 2015 election, but we bounced back, we are almost twice the size we were then, we’ve gained more council seats than every other party in this country put together.

And I’ve being doing a bit of confounding expectations myself. You see, I am a white, northern, working class, middle aged bloke. According to polling experts, I should have voted Leave.

May I assure you that I didn’t.

But mates of mine did. People in my family did. Some of them even admitted it to me. And some of them didn’t. But you told my sister didn’t you, and somehow thought it wouldn’t get back to me. You know who you are.

I have spent most of my adult life, worked and raised a family in Westmorland. I’m proud to call it my home.

But I grew up a few miles south, in Preston in Lancashire.

Preston is where I learnt my values, it’s where I was raised in a loving family where there wasn’t much money around and at a time when, it appeared to me, the Thatcher government seemed utterly determined to put every adult I knew out of work and on the scrapheap.

But our people and our community were not for breaking.

The great city of Preston is a no nonsense place, proud of its history, ambitious about its future.

It is the birthplace of the industrial revolution;

It is the place where Cromwell won the most important battle in the English Civil War. The complacent establishment stuffed by the outsiders.

Which links rather neatly to the referendum. Preston voted 53% to leave. There were some places in Lancashire where two-thirds of people voted out.

And I respect those people.

If you’ll forgive me, they are my people.

And if they’ll forgive me, I’m still utterly convinced that Britain should remain in Europe.

I was on the 23rd June, I am today, I will continue to be.

Not because I’m some starry-eyed pro-European with Ode to Joy as my ring tone – we all know what I have as my ring tone – but because I am a patriot and believe it’s in our national interest to be in.

For more jobs, for lower prices, to fight climate change, to stop terrorism, catch criminals, to have influence, to be a good neighbour, to stand tall, to stand proud, to matter.

And, above all, because I believe that Britain is an open, tolerant and united country – the opposite of the bleak vision of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

Britain did not become Great Britain on fear, isolation and division – and there is no country called Little Britain.

There is nothing so dangerous and narrow as nationalism and cheap identity politics.

But there is nothing wrong with identity. I am very proud of mine.

I am a Lancastrian, I am a Northerner, I am English, I am British, I am European. I am all those things, none of them contradict another and no campaign of lies, hate and fear will rob me of who I am.

But we lost didn’t we?

Now – I was born and raised in Preston but the football-mad half of my family is from Blackburn, so I’m a Rovers fan. Defeat and disappointment is in my blood.

So those who say I’m a bad loser are quite wrong.

I am a great loser.

I have had loads of practice.

But the referendum result to me was like a bereavement. I was devastated by it.

We Liberal Democrats worked harder than anyone else in that campaign, we put blood, sweat and tears
into it.

We put the positive case for Europe, while Cameron and Osborne churned out dry statistics, fear mongering and shallow platitudes.

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Conference debates open thread: Tuesday 20th September 2016

Whether you are physically in Brighton or are following what is happening from home, this is your place to talk about the public face of the Conference – in other words, all the debates and speeches that are going on in the main auditorium.  Please use the comments below to add your reports on policy and constitutional debates or to draw readers’ attention to ones in the pipeline.

You can read the agenda in full, including the text of amendments, here.

We will be running a similar thread each day, so please confine your comments today to what is actually happening today, the last day of this year’s event.

We will also be running a thread each day on fringes, so use that one for anything going on outside the main show.

So what is happening today at Conference?

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A voice for the voiceless

I had written a speech for the European motion at conference, and I wanted to share it with you all:

I was going to tell you about how angry I was.

I was going to talk about how the Leave campaign lied, how they cheated, how they preyed on fear, and how fear won.

I was going to demand we take action.

I was going to implore you to stand fast in your support for internationalism and your support for Britain’s membership of the EU.

But then I remembered that it isn’t just about us, that it isn’t just about the 16 million people who voted for an open and tolerant nation.

It is about our friends and neighbours, the 3 million EU nationals who live and work with us in Britain who never had a voice during the referendum.

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Lib Dems overwhelmingly back referendum on Brexit deal

The Lib Dems are so far the only party to call for a referendum on the eventual Brexit deal. Conference overwhelmingly backed a motion lodged by the Federal Policy Committee.

Nick Clegg spoke in the debate and got a standing ovation, saying that

He got a standing ovation – even from some people who have spent the last six years heavily criticising him. Is the party learning to love its former leader again? To Nick’s credit, he immediately signalled to people to sit down so the debate could continue.

The motion also set out nine priorities (outlined below) for the Brexit negotiations, including securing Britain’s membership of the Single Market, and called for MPs to have a vote on the Government’s negotiating mandate before Article 50 is triggered.

Ming Campbell also spoke, joking that former leaders were like London buses – you can never get one when you want one but then two turn up at once.

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On Iain Dale’s Top 50 Liberal Democrats list

Over the weekend, political blogger and LBC presenter Iain Dale unveiled his list of Top Liberal Democrats in 2016.  It is generally viewed with amusement by conference-goers. While it may give people bragging rights over certain of their colleagues, it is fairly arbitrary in nature.

I was particularly happy to see some of the most energetic campaigners our party has make it on to the list. Daisy Benson has been a massive factor in galvanising the Lib Dem Newbies into quite a force within the party. Former Presidential candidate and now PPC for St Albans Daisy Cooper is another welcome addition. What is absolutely astounding, though, is that Elains Bagshaw, who has made a name for herself with her incredible campaigning in Tower Hamlets, isn’t there.

Annoyingly, Willie Rennie has leapfrogged Kirsty Williams. He has certainly had a good year with his vibrant and bright election campaign, but Kirsty, for goodness sake, is a Cabinet Minister. Along with Lib Dem Council leaders, she has much more actual power than just about anyone else. 

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Deputy Leader Drama

A good deal of this Conference is taken up with debating the party’s Governance Review. Changes are being made to make the party’s structure more accountable, transparent and strategic. This was a key plank of Sal Brinton’s presidential campaign in 2014.

Thankfully, all the constitutional stuff has been split up and is being discussed in smaller slots at the end of each day.

Yesterday afternoon, we debated proposals to elect a Deputy Leader. This came out of a constitutional amendment last year which was referred back to the Governance Review. In the wake of an election result leaving us with eight white make MPs, there seemed to be a desire for a Deputy Leader from an under-represented group.

A subsequent consultation was inconclusive as to whether members wanted a deputy leader elected by the membership or not. Conference was given the opportunity to choose between two options – one for a deputy leader elected by the members on a joint ticket with the leader. The rationale behind that was heavily influenced by watching the relationship between Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson play out.

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Conference debates open thread: Monday 19th September 2016

Whether you are physically in Brighton or are following what is happening from home, this is your place to talk about the public face of the Conference – in other words, all the debates and speeches that are going on in the main auditorium.  Please use the comments below to add your reports on policy and constitutional debates or to draw readers’ attention to ones in the pipeline.

You can read the agenda in full, including the text of amendments, here.

We will be running a similar thread each day, so please confine your comments today to what is actually happening today. Tomorrow’s instalment will appear at 7.30am.

We will also be running a thread each day on fringes, so use that one for anything going on outside the main show.

So what is happening today at Conference?

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Social security paper has practical suggestions for helping the vulnerable

I reckon that I’ve been to over 30 Lib Dem conferences in my years as a member, so missing the odd one usually isn’t a hardship. But I am absolutely gutted that I am missing this one in Brighton. I really wanted to be there to support the excellent Mending the Safety Net motion that stems from the policy working group I was a member of.

It was a first time for me to make the commitment and apply to join a working group but as someone who has spent my whole professional career working with people in hardship, for the last eight years at Citizens Advice, I felt I could add something to the party’s thinking. It was a great experience and I would recommend people to put themselves forward if they think they can add something to these things.

The group, under Jenny Willow’s great chairmanship, was far more involved than I imagined. We met almost weekly for months, took direct evidence from 22 experts in the field, read through 786 pages of written evidence, ran an amazing consultative session at York with 80 delegates and received over 500 online responses from members. The report is a large, detailed and costed proposal on how practically we could turn around the lives of the most vulnerable in society.

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Conference debates open thread: Sunday 18th September 2016

Whether you are physically in Brighton or are following what is happening from home, this is your place to talk about the public face of the Conference – in other words, all the debates and speeches that are going on in the main auditorium.  Please use the comments below to add your reports on policy and constitutional debates or to draw readers’ attention to ones in the pipeline.

You can read the agenda in full, including the text of amendments, here.

We will be running a similar thread each day, so please confine your comments today to what is actually happening today. Tomorrow’s instalment will appear at 7.30am.

We will also be running a thread each day on fringes, so use that one for anything going on outside the main show.

So what is happening today at Conference?

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A sneak peak at the Lib Dem Disco set list

Disco 2014It’s just a couple of hours until the event that’s rapidly becoming the only place to be on Saturday night at Conference: the Lib Dem Disco run by Cambridge Liberal Democrats.

I will brag for the rest of my life about how I beat Tim Farron two years ago. Who would have foreseen that. I was second only to the mighty Alistair Carmichael.

Anyway, tonight’s DJs are include a knight, Sir Simon Hughes, the Lib Dems’ only cabinet minister, Kirsty Williams,  a councillor known for her ability to hold off a massive challenge from Labour, Abi Bell and the defending champion Jo Swinson.

Strictly always puts up the dances and music in advance of the show. I asked the disco organisers very nicely if they’d let me have a sneak peak of tonight’s set list.. Ok, I admit it, I had to beg.

It’s coming up under the cut, so if you want it all to be a complete surprise, do not go there.

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Introducing….the #LDConf Scavenger Hunt

What is Conference without a bit of mischief?

Yes, there are serious debates, but we have to have a bit of fun as well.

This is why we’ve come up with a diversion that will help you get round Conference and meet lots of interesting people.

That’s right. Your mission, dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to collect as many of the following items as possible during Conference. The first person to prove that they have them all will win a special LDV prize. To stake your claim to the prize, email me on [email protected] on Tuesday morning before 11am. …

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Conference debates open thread: Saturday 17th September 2016

Whether you are physically in Brighton or are following what is happening from home, this is your place to talk about the public face of the Conference – in other words, all the debates and speeches that are going on in the main auditorium.  Please use the comments below to add your reports on policy and constitutional debates or to draw readers’ attention to ones in the pipeline.

You can read the agenda in full, including the text of amendments, here.

We will be running a similar thread each day, so please confine your comments today to what is actually happening today. Tomorrow’s instalment will appear at 7.30am.

We will also be running a thread each day on fringes, so use that one for anything going on outside the main show.

So what is happening today at Conference?

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Lib Dems to consider NHS tax #ldconf

The Liberal Democrats are to set up an independent expert panel to consider the case for a dedicated NHS and care tax,  Norman Lamb will announce in his Conference speech at Brighton later today.

Members of the ‘New Beveridge Group’ will include Dr. Clare Gerada, former President of the Royal College of GPs, Prof. Dinesh Bhugra, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and current President of the World Psychiatric Association, Peter Carter, the former General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, and the chief executive of the Patients’ Association, Katherine Murphy.

It will report its recommendations to the party in six months’ time, presumably in time for Spring Conference.

Speaking to party members in Brighton, Lib Dem Health spokesperson Norman Lamb will say:

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Eight ways to follow what’s going on at #ldconf in Brighton

Disco 2014Whether you are in Brighton or not, you can still keep in touch with what’s going on at Conference in a variety of different ways.

Obviously, you can follow the gossip, mischief, analysis and the stuff they won’t put on the party website on here.

The party is producing a daily round up email. Sign up for it here.

Follow the #ldconf hashtag on Twitter.

For a record of all the decisions passed as they happen, follow the Live Blog on the party website.

If you suddenly find that you have some free time and can go to Conference, you can still register online here.

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The Iraq War must no longer poison our relations with Labour

What would we remember of the Labour government, if Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack fifteen years ago had never happened? If Labour had listened to the advice of Robin Cook and John Denham, and not engaged in the catastrophe of the Iraq war?

Many of us will remember Robin Cook’s electrifying resignation speech. If only he were alive today. However, he was not the only Labour minister to step down from government office because of the Iraq war. In his prescient resignation speech, on the 18th March, 2003, John Denham said:

If we act in the wrong way, we will create more of the problems that we aim to tackle. For every cause of insecurity with which we try to deal, we shall create a new one.

This summer, I was an observer at the Fabian and Progress summer conferences. I didn’t hear anyone try to defend the Iraq war, and a number agreed it had been a terrible mistake. In fact, if you substituted the word Labour for Liberal Democrat, almost everything that was said could have been said at a Liberal Democrat conference, and probably will be in this coming week.

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Why the social security policy paper should be rejected

On Monday at Liberal Democrat conference, party members will have the chance to debate policy motion F31 which endorses a new Liberal Democrat welfare policy paper, Mending the safety net.

However, as one of the members of the working group which wrote the paper, I strongly urge all members at conference to vote against the motion.

My reasons for saying this are simple: although the policy paper is called ‘Mending the Safety Net’, what it proposes is nothing of the sort. In fact, it actively endorses the current welfare system which is failing so badly that over a million people in the UK don’t just live in poverty but are actively destitute.

This is undoubtedly one of the greatest social challenges facing our country – even if you set aside the human suffering it creates, poverty costs the UK £78 billion a year, blighting our national prosperity.

When set against that backdrop, the welfare policy motion is a failure.

In my opinion it lets down some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society by failing to offer real solutions to the problems they face, it spectacularly misses the opportunity to define a real and distinctive alternative approach to welfare for the Liberal Democrats, and, crucially, it cannot be made fit for purpose even if all the amendments to it on the agenda are passed.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Looking forward to Lib Dem Disco?

For those of you heading to Conference in Brighton this weekend, I hope word has reached you by now that Cambridge Lib Dems are once again hosting the hugely enjoyable Lib Dem Disco in association with UK Music.

It was such fun last year that even Buzzfeed was astounded.

This year will see defending champion DJ Jo Swinson taking on the challenge from Kirsty Williams, Simon Hughes and the ALDC’s own Abi Bell. As before, your MC for the evening is one Julian “J Huppz” Huppert.

Things kick off at 10:30pm in the Balmoral & Buckingham Room, Hilton Metropole, Brighton on Saturday 17th September.

Please note that in previous years a special online discount was offered. This year tickets are all £10 each. We would like to apologise if this was incorrectly stated elsewhere. Naturally you can trust this now that you’ve read it on Lib Dem Voice!

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Conference Countdown 2016: Caron’s guide to the craziness of Conference – updated for Brighton 2016

Credit: Freefoto.com Credit: Freefoto.com

Federal Conference is probably the best fun that you will ever have in your life. You will thoroughly enjoy every exhausting moment. If you’re new, it can be a bit overwhelming until you get used to the sensory overload. I had a long break from going to them and when I returned, in 2011, I spent the first day wandering round in a state of wide-eyed amazement,  like a child in a toy shop.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d throw together a fairly random list of tips and hints for getting the best out of the annual cornucopia of Liberal Democracy. If you have any other Conference survival tips, let me know.

1. Plan your days

The Conference day starts with breakfast fringes as early as 7 and goes on until the small hours. There’s a comprehensive training programme alongside the debates in the hall. There are spokespeople Q & As. There are competing fringe choices to be made, even though the overall selection has reduced in recent years.  You can guarantee that you will never be bored and that several things you want to see will be on at the same time. If you want to go to the big events like the Matt Forde interview with Tim Farron or the fringe meeting on the book advocating a progressive alliance with Caroline Lucas and Lisa Nandy or the Guardian’s chat with Nick Clegg, you are best advised to get there early because they fill up quickly.

Be aware as well that you can eat quite well for free by choosing the right fringe meetings – look for the refreshments symbol in the directory.

Believe me, it’s much easier if you sort out your diary in advance. The best laid plans will always be subject to a better offer or meeting someone you haven’t seen for years randomly in a corridor, but it’s best to at least try to get some order into the proceedings. The Conference App is a real help for this. You can download it from whichever App store you use on your phone. It allows you to add events to your schedule and is pretty flexible. 

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Reversing Conservative cuts remains the big social security challenge

The conference policy paper on “Mending the Safety Net” contains lots of good stuff on a wide range of welfare policy, even if I say so as a member of its working group. But, at Conference and beyond, I think it’s important not to get distracted from the big issue of the £13bn of cuts planned by the Conservatives. Reversing these – and indeed going further – is what will make the biggest difference to people’s lives, to UK inequality and even to the economy (and hopefully win a few votes in the process). Within this, here are three goals that the party should be fighting for.

Increasing working-age benefits in line with inflation – and ultimately earnings

George Osborne announced that most non-pensioner benefits would be frozen at their 2015 levels for 4 more years. Even before the Brexit vote, this was expected to be a massive drag on living standards. But inflation over the next few years is now expected to be higher than previously predicted – driven by rising import prices due to the weaker pound – and unemployment is predicted to rise too. This means the freeze will be even harsher than Osborne intended. And if the economy at any point needs a boost through fiscal policy, cutting the incomes of poorer households would be just about the worst policy you can think of, as The Economist recently noted.

So the party should be pressuring the new Chancellor to scrap the freeze and increase working-age benefits in line with inflation. But the policy paper goes further and argues that benefits should ultimately rise in line with average earnings – alongside a return to some form of housing cost link for Housing Benefit (soon to be part of UC). This would help ensure that when the economy and tax receipts are growing, everyone shares in that and inequality doesn’t widen. It may sound boring, but choices about benefit uprating in the long-term can compound to be more important than almost any other welfare or tax choice for poverty and inequality.

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ALDC Campaigner Awards – Voting is now live!

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Each year, ALDC recognises the outstanding work of local Focus teams through our Campaigner Awards and the voting is now open to select your best Focus teams from across the UK.

This year, after shortlisting, we have opened the vote to you! Regardless of whether you are a member of ALDC or not, we want members of the party to have a say in this year’s winners so click below to login and get voting today.

Voting closes on 14th September.

This year, our categories and candidates are:

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Jenny Willott writes: Is Citizens’ Income the answer to the failures of our social security system?

I recently wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice about “Mending the Safety Net”, the policy paper on social security which will be discussed at conference in Brighton.  One of the issues raised in the comment on the piece was, understandably, why the group ended up not supporting a move to a Citizen’s Income.  Rather than a long comment on the original piece, I thought it would be helpful to explain the groups view in a separate post.

In a nutshell, the Citizen’s Income pays the same amount to every resident, regardless of whether they are in work or not.  There is no means testing and no conditions apply to those receiving the payment.  Every citizen receives the same amount, although in some schemes there are different amounts for children, working age adults and pensioners.  There are a number of different monikers and different ways of doing similar things, such as Negative Income Tax and Universal Basic Income, most of which we looked into, but for simplicity I’m just going to refer to ‘Citizen’s Income’ throughout.

At first glance it seems simple and easy to administer, and could help put an end to the divisive ‘them versus us’ narrative that has infected the debate on welfare.

That is why I and many others on the social security group were initially very attracted to the idea. We read a lot about it and invited a number of people who have advocated the policy to give evidence to the group. 

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Jenny Willott writes…Mending the Safety Net – our proposals for reforming working age social security

Since last October, I have been chairing the Social Security Working Group, which has been taking a fresh look at party policy in this area.  We had a wide ranging remit covering all aspects of working age social security, from supporting people with disabilities to tackling child poverty.  We have now published our policy recommendations: it has been a big challenge, but thanks to a working group of passionate, talented people, ranging from experienced policy makers to new enthusiastic party members, I think we’ve produced a paper of which Lib Dems can be proud. You can find Mending the Safety Net here.

I thought it would be helpful to set out some of the key things we are proposing.  We heard a lot of different ideas and proposals from party members, experts and NGOs, and have sought to propose policy that is liberal and distinctive, but which, crucially, could make a real and practical difference to people’s lives.

Reducing child poverty

From the outset the group agreed that reducing child poverty should be our priority. We know that a child growing up in poverty will already be attaining less than their better off peers by the time they start school, they will be bullied more, have poorer health and are less likely to leave school with five A* – C GCSE passes. We felt strongly that it should be a real priority to tackle the barriers created for children that grow up in poverty.

Unlike when Labour first came to power, the majority of children growing up in poverty now do so in households where at least one person works. That’s why one of our key recommendations is to introduce a second earner’s allowance to Universal Credit. This could transform the lives of many children by dramatically increasing the amount of money going to some of the lowest paid families in our country. We also want to see an increase of £5 a week to the child element of Universal Credit for the first child in a family to help new families afford the high costs associated with a first child.

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Federal Conference Committee so far fails to extend unfairly implemented early bird discount for Autumn Conference

It’s been four days since registration for the Autumn Conference opened. It’s three days until the initial early bird discount expires on Wednesday, 27th April. If you want to register, click here.

I suggested last week that having a discounted period that expired a) before payday for most people and b) in the middle of an election.

The party should not be handing out a double whammy to those on lower incomes. More affluent members will be able to take advantage of unbudgeted expenditure before they get paid. Those who are struggling at the end of each month will not – and they’ll be charged an extra £13, a premium of over 20%. There’s an inherent injustice here. I’m sure that this must have been an oversight and I’m sure it can be changed quickly. Let’s hope that there’s a quick rethink.

We know from the comments to my post that there was discussion amongst the Federal Conference Committee about whether that early bird discount rate of £60 should be extended at least until payday. We haven’t yet heard the outcome of those discussions and time is running out.

I still think that an extension to the end of May would be appropriate, but as a bare minimum it should be extended until a week after polling day.

The key points of the FCC’s defence are that there is another early bird discount rate of £73 that will then last until the end of May. That is true, as the table taken from the party website shows:

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Federal Conference registration opens – but discounted period only lasts for a week

I got an email 24 minutes ago inviting me to register for Federal Autumn Conference. This year’s event takes place from 17-20 September.

I acted on it immediately and have secured my place. I’m not impressed with just a week being allocated for the early bird discount though.

We’re offering a special early bird rate of £60 for members who book by 27th April so register now!

Hang on a wee minute. It’s giving us a week to register at the early bird rate before whacking the price up? In the middle of an election when most of us are rushed off our feet? Before the end of the month when most people get paid?

I think that the Federal Conference Committee should at the very least extend the deadline for the early bird discount until the end of May. That gives people another month to budget for it. After all, registration normally opens after any May elections, round about the beginning of June.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Cutting VAT for tourism would be a costly mistake

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

One of the motions at conference is for reducing VAT on tourism as far as possible. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

The idea is to reduce VAT on hotels and selected attractions from the standard rate of 20% to 5% – the minimum allowed by the EU. This is something the British Hospitality Association has been lobbying the Treasury on for years. The motion refers to the importance of tourism more generally, with figures that include all restaurants, pubs and outbound flights, amongst other things, but I assume its VAT proposal is (mercifully) more limited.

The government’s response to this lobbying (under both Labour and the Coalition of which we were a part) has been to point to the substantial price tag. The cost of cutting VAT for accommodation alone would be £2 billion a year, with amusement parks and similar adding another £200 million. This is serious money. A comparable total would be the cost of the Pupil Premium that Lib Dems fought so hard to introduce.

Posted in Conference, Events and News | Also tagged , and | 22 Comments
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