The new complaints process goes live on 1st July

It’s a good year to be a Lib Dem: we’ve gained thousands of new members, hundreds of council seats and 15 new MEPs because we are united while the Tories and Labour tear themselves apart from within. No party is immune to mistakes though and that’s why I’m proud to say that – from 1 July* – if a new complaint is made against a Lib Dem member, it will be handled under our new complaints procedure, which is consistent, clear and fit for purpose.

Federal Conference voted for this procedure at Brighton in Autumn 2018 and it has since been accepted by each of the state parties in England, Scotland and Wales. It is now time to implement it.

No complaints procedure can work without people to run it. That is why I am proud to say that more than 400 people responded to call for volunteers and we will be ready to hit the ground running. 

From 1 July 2019, complaints should be reported to the Standards Officer at LDHQ who will record the details in the case management system and send it on to the Senior Adjudication Team or “SAT”. The SAT comprises a Senior Adjudicator from each state party and our brilliant Lead Adjudicator, Fred Mackintosh.  The four members of the SAT have many years’ experience in the party and a background in making decisions and dealing with complex problems.

When a case is first raised Fred will randomly assign it to one of at least forty trained and impartial Adjudicators, who will assign any case which is more than frivolous to one of either the formal or informal routes.  At the same time the SAT will decide whether the member complained about should be suspended from membership whilst the complaint is resolved.

The informal route – which is similar to mediation – should take around 2 months to complete. It is led by a trained and impartial Independent Person who aims to resolve disputes by talking things through with both parties, and potentially arranging a meeting between both parties to try and resolve the dispute. Often this kind of approach is resolved with an apology although sometimes some form of training may be mandated.

The formal route should take around 2-3 months to complete. A trained and impartial Investigator will investigate the complaint and submit a report to a panel made up of three Adjudicators. The parties to the complaint have the right to see this report and respond to it at the panel hearing. Evidence will be fully and fairly examined by the Adjudicators and they will make their decision on the balance of probabilities – i.e. is it more likely than not that the complaint should be upheld. If the complaint is upheld, the panel can suggest sanctions from training to expulsion. It is possible to appeal throughout the process.

The full procedure and guidance will be available on the Party’s website. The guidance addresses a number of concerns members have raised in more detail, including how we support parties to a complaint and ensure confidentiality and anonymity.

I am proud to be a member of a party that prepares for good times as well as bad – and this new procedure will make it much easier to do just that. 

*Please note that any complaint already reported to the relevant State Party before 1 July will be handled under their current system.

* Alice Thomas is a member of the Federal Board and leads the FB Disciplinary Sub-Group. She is a solicitor based in Southwark who joined the Lib Dems in her hometown of Bromley & Chislehurst in 2006, just in time for her first by-election and has been campaigning ever since.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Mick Taylor 28th Jun '19 - 2:42pm

    I wish the new system all the best. Words are fine of course, but it will be judged by results. If we continue to get failures as in the past then it will be back to the drawing board. It is an unenviable role and there will be many who will not accept the results, even after careful deliberation. I suspect the system won’t be accepted if it acquits those amongst the good and the great who are accused of improper behaviour whilst coming down hard on ordinary members as ha happened recently.

  • Denis Loretto 30th Jun '19 - 11:05am

    I completely agree with Mick. I think he is reacting to the sĺightly triumphalist tone of Alice’s article. What he is saying is the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

  • Paul Reynolds 30th Jun '19 - 6:01pm

    Thanks for a clear and informative article, Alice. Good news. I don’t know if you are minded to engage with LDV readers on these web pages, but I have a question which has been raised by colleagues and I promised to get back to them. Some of my party member colleagues received emails ten days or so ago encouraging them to apply to be ‘Adjudicators’, ‘Investigators’, ‘Independent Persons (Mediators)’, or ‘Party Mentors’, as part of the new disciplinary system, and some have not. Some folks were asking if I know what the criteria were for choosing who to invite and who not to invite. Can you provide a clear explanation on this point ? If you can I think it will help build confidence in the system. Many thanks indeed for all the excellent work.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '19 - 1:15pm

    Hi Paul – an all-member email was sent out a couple of weeks ago now inviting applications. You may need to check spam and junk mail inboxes for that and speak to the membership team if you did not receive it.

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