Our campaign has already got off to a flying start in the by-election caused by Owen Paterson's disgrace.
The local party had already made impressive progress in this May's local elections. They secured a clear second place and created many marginal Conservative-Liberal Democrat wards.
Now we have a brilliant opportunity to turbo-charge that growth in our support and to see just how angry voters are about sleaze and sewage. Ed Davey is already on his third visit there.
Thank you also to Simone Reynolds and Simon Drage, respectively our candidate and agent for the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election. More details here.
There are two musts for how our party is run. It must be run in a way that is true to our values, and it must be run in a way that helps us work together to be successful.
Sadly, our 2019 General Election Review (the Thornhill Review) found major flaws in how the party operated. That cost us votes and seats.
Since its publication, the Federal Party has been making many changes in response, as I've covered in previous reports. But there is still important work to do.
One of the Review's key findings was about the Federal Board itself:
There is no clear 'leadership team' where the three pillars of the party - political, operational, federal - can make cohesive decisions, simply, quickly, and effectively. The Federal Board - 40+ members - is not, cannot, and should not be that team.
So the Board is consulting on options for Board reform, and will put one or more to Spring Conference for members to make a decision.
As part of this we are running a consultation survey. Please do give your views via the consultation survey here.
The survey will close on Wednesday 8th December 2021.
Earlier this month I wrote for the party website about the importance of increasing the number of council elections we contest: "The merits of standing in a council by-election we have a chance of winning are obvious. So too for wards which we might hope to win in the future and where the by-election is a chance to accelerate that progress. But there are also huge benefits in standing even in wards that we are not likely to win for a very long time yet (if ever)."
Voting is open in the election for our Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities. If you've not yet received a ballot either by email or post, please email [email protected] and the team will be happy to help.
Members have until noon on Friday 10th December to vote.
At our September meeting, the Board voted to remove a Board member from the remainder of the meeting because of their behaviour towards a member of staff.
It is important for staff to be able to expect to be treated properly by everyone in the party, regardless of the post they hold or how they got into that post. I have apologised to the member of staff involved, and am grateful to the many other Board colleagues who have also done so.
The vote was only for that Board meeting and the Board member has been free to come to subsequent meetings.
The person excluded from the meeting has since appealed to the Federal Appeals Panel. The Board's officers are managing the Board's response to this.
Congratulations to Cllr Mark Canniford, Cllr Marlene Heron and Cllr Kris Chapman for being shortlisted in the 2021 Local Government Information Unit & CCLA Cllr Awards 2021.
Thank you for all you do for your communities, and best of luck for awards night!
Thanks and congratulations also to the party's team working on data protection matters for news from the Information Commissioner's Office (the ICO) that their audit of the party has closed.
The ICO has been auditing all the main parties. In closing its audit of the Lib Dems, it said we, "engaged positively with the audit process and seemed to welcome the opportunity to discuss and exchange data protection issues and examples of good practice".
As you would expect with any audit, it identified areas for improvement, which are being implemented. But no enforcement action is being taken against the party.
Recent weeks have seen the roll out of two new systems to make the way we do things easier, more reliable and take up less time.
One is the automation of local party membership rebate payments. What used to be a slow and arduous manual task is now automated, saving a big chunk of staff time and ensuring that the right payments are made promptly.
Local parties can also secure much higher membership rebates by recruiting and renewing members locally, especially on direct debit. See my September report for details.
The other new system is the new case management system for our complaints process. This automates many of the key administrative steps. It will also allow much more tracking of the details of how the system is performing - an important point to ensure it continues to improve after the very welcome declines in the average time taken to resolve a case and in the number of outstanding cases.
There are now under 150 outstanding cases (down from the peak of 325 last year). The number closed was greater than the number opened in ten of the last eleven months.
Also related to the complaints system, the Board has asked Antony Hook - a barrister and part-time judge as well as being a Liberal Democrat councillor and former MEP - to investigate a particular set of claims about the system's operation that were raised with the Board. I hope the choice of someone with his credentials will give those involved confidence in the outcome of the investigation and I will do my best to report on that to members as far as rules of confidentiality allow.