The role of Chair is incredibly varied depending on the changing needs of Young Liberals and its Executive. At its least exciting it is concerned with solving operational and administrative problems that often crop up in organisations (including our own). At its most interesting, it can involve anything from working with other officers to pioneer new approaches to campaigning, to policy, or to develop positions on current affairs, to meeting with members of the party to develop common strategies or achieve common goals.
I set out at the start of our term to make sure that as an Executive we set ourselves a small number of objectives which we would use to guide our decisions throughout the year. The idea behind this was to give us achievable objectives by which we could measure collective success (or failure) especially when it came to setting a budget. Here are the goals we agreed on:
Young and Winning
We’re now working with the party to change our website, taking it as an opportunity to make it look better, and improve on its structure. A lot of progress has been made on this with the help of the Chair of RhI Cymru (which has also been undergoing a rebrand).
With RhI Cymru now having tested and successfully changed over their domain names, I anticipate we will be able to do the same for our website.
Young and Winning
Young and Winning was an idea I started floating during my last term on the Executive, with training delivered at Activate and Party Conference geared towards preparing young people with the skills necessary to go out and win elections.
This year, we’re launched it properly, with a dedicated pot of money set aside with the aim of helping young people across the United Kingdom win wherever they are. Our training too continues to focus on the development of skills necessary to play vital roles in winning elections, whether you’re a candidate or not.
This was moderately successful, and before the end of my term I hope to have put in place infrastructure so that should the next executive wish to continue supporting young people, it has the necessary information to do so.
Following on from this, the party’s Candidates Office has now started putting local parties in touch with me to discuss how best to encourage more young people to apply for candidacy in council, devolved or Parliamentary elections. This is part of their wider strategy for improving the diversity of its candidates across the board.
The Chatbox Review was concluded and its findings published. A handful of suggestions were made to the admin team based on these findings, though largely the review was able to conclude that a stricter enforcement of existing rules in the code of conduct had improved the experience of most participants (with a fewer than 5 respondents claiming that their experience would be improved by a more anarchic online forum).
Unfortunately due to the timings of these meetings which conflicted with numerous work and voluntary commitments, it is rare that I have been able to attend meetings of the Federal Board. The privilege of being able to sit on the Federal Board is a big one, and one which it is necessary for us as a youth wing. My availability when it comes to attending these meetings has only decreased as the year has progressed, and thus this has become one of many reasons why I won’t be seeking reelection this year.
As part of our goal to improve our financial autonomy, we’ve set some targets (which you can view on the website by clicking on the budget). It was clear at the start of the year that each portfolio would have to take some budget cuts in order for us to reduce the size of our deficit. The amount of money we make in a year simply isn’t enough for us to be able to do everything that we want for members.
In the months before the General Election, we launched a Friends of Young Liberals fundraising scheme targeted at party members who aren’t Young Liberals. We now have a reasonable monthly income from donors as a consequence. This will hopefully be expanded at party conference next month.
Sadly, our staff member Vicky Nevin has now taken up a new role with the party’s Parliamentary Support Team. This unfortunately means that for now we are without a staff member. The wheels are already in motion for hiring a new staff member, however, and the job advert should already have gone out by the time of this report being delivered.
I have advised the party on some minor changes to the job description following a consultation from the Executive. It is unlikely the whole process will be done by the time the next Executive takes over, but I will continue to work through any preparatory work necessary to speed up the process for the nextw term.
Within a week of the Prime Minister’s annoucement that there would be an early General Election, I convened an emergency meeting of the Executive to which we invited members from HQ tasked with carrying out the election campaign. Using their advice, we developed a list which we would target.
Unfortunately, very few of these seats got back to us in time. As such these Action Days had to go ahead without the financial support we would have liked to offer.
Vice Chair’s Report
At the beginning of our term of office we drew up a budget for 2017 on the basis of a consultation to which members were invited to make submissions. We were able to draw upon the priorities suggested by members to decide between competing demands for resources.
This budget has been used as a guide when making spending decisions, though where possible further economies have been made beyond those required by the budget. At the time of writing the organisation has a year-to-date deficit of less than £1,000, which suggests that on present trends we are likely to record a surplus for 2017 as a whole.
The budget has been reviewed several times and amendments made according to improved estimates of expenditure and changes in priorities, most notably as a result of the General Election.
We launched the “Friends of Young Liberals” fundraising campaign at the Federal Party’s Spring Conference in York. This was very successful, with commitments totalling £57 per month being received that weekend, in addition to cash of £125 taken on the stall. We also received a total of five euro cents in foreign currency. We will be seeking to raise significantly more at the much larger fundraising opportunity of Bournemouth Autumn Conference.
We also began negotiations with two potential large donors interested in supporting new, larger projects. However, work on this was disrupted by the General Election, and we are now unlikely to be able to do more than prepare groundwork ready for handover.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who assisted us with fundraising, without whom the figures noted above would have been significantly smaller.
A top-to-bottom review of the budget was begun within hours of the Prime Minister’s announcement of her intention to seek a dissolution of Parliament, with revisions to the budget being adopted within days.
This made available a substantial sum to subsidise action days and social media activity, and a process was put in place to ensure that no expenditure could be incurred other than in accordance with electoral law.
We are satisfied that the organisation complied fully with the requirements of election law. However, given the severe constraints on local election expenditure, only one election agent was willing to offer travel expenses to volunteers. As a result, very little was spent on this activity.
We would advise future Executives that, in the event of a General Election, offering subsidised travel to key seats is unlikely to be feasible. Working with the party’s national election campaign to produce effective social media advertising targeted at young people and students may be a better focus.
Financial statements for the year to 31/12/2016 were prepared and submitted to the Electoral Commission by the appropriate deadline and are hereby presented to Conference for approval.
We encourage members to review the document for themselves, but overall the organisation’s finances are sound, with healthy reserves as a result of under-spends in previous years.
Also presented for approval are financial statements for 2013, 2014 and 2015. Previous officers failed to prepare these as required, resulting in a significant amount of work being required during the winter to bring the organisation up to date.
We would strongly encourage any members interested in taking on the roles of Treasurer or Chair to approach us to discuss the various legal requirements. These are perfectly manageable with a little advance planning, but it is important to consider how legal duties will be fulfilled.
Other financial issues
We are responsible in general terms for the stewardship of the organisation’s finances. As part of this we routinely monitor bank accounts for suspicious activity, monitor the work of other offices for possible unbudgeted liabilities, and maintain accounting records.
In addition to our own portfolio, we have supported other officers and taken on work beyond the finance portfolio. We are closely involved in the management of the Freshers campaign, in particular processing data and organising dispatches. We are also, of course, responsible for invoicing branches, processing the money received and dealing with related enquiries.
Events Officer’s Report
To begin, let’s address York Conference. It was probably one of the more enjoyable conferences for me to be at, and I can say with confidence that it was just about as much of a success as it could have been. We brought much needed attention to our stall, and I worked hard to build connections with the largely new conference team at HQ. However I can report that the conference on the whole was well managed and pulled off without major incident.
Onto Bournemouth Conference then. With the departure of our staff member, who was organising the majority of the details of our fringes whilst I was worrying immensely about Activate, the executive was left in quite a muddle. I was left without any meaningful details of whatever had been planned, and due to my mother being taken ill, I ended up missing a meeting that might have cleared some of that up. However, subsequent communications breakdowns, both on my part and on the part of others in the executive (exacerbated greatly by the resignation of one of our vice chairs) meant that trying to establish control over the situation has been difficult. I can say with confidence though, that at least one of our two fringe events is sufficiently planned, and with one month left I'm sure the second will fall into place as it always does. You can expect detailed announcements of those very very soon.
The General Election, this year was tough on a lot of us. I was largely out of action due to deadlines and a serious illness, but our campaign and the work we all put in overshadowed Activate. Oh Activate. It’s been absolute hell trying to organise this conference, I will admit. There
is virtually no other stone I could have turned over to get this conference off the ground as I did.
I’m glad we’re here, but now as I deliver this report I can be sure in my feelings of relief that it is nearly over. This conference was *YET AGAIN* achieved under budget. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved on this in the short time that I had to organise it. It’s no Sheffield Winter Conference, but I doubt that I’ll see a Young Liberals Conference that I’ll enjoy quite as much for some time to come.
I am sure that some of you will be disappointed that I will not make good on my campaign pledge to re-introduce Conference Crash. This is partly because the money set aside for Crash was used in the surprise election campaign, but also because it’s a near impossibility to properly safeguard people without significant resources on my part, and the executive’s part being used. Conference Crash is an unfortunate impossibility for now. I’m sure with some more investment and better
planning it can be pulled off, but not by me, and not this conference.
Policy Officer’s Report
-Signposted deadlines for Winter and Autumn Conference
-Helped members to draft motions for submission for both Conferences
-Cleaned up the policy book by removing superfluous policies and making it lighter and easier to read
-Helped the policy side of things start 2017-18 with a 'clean slate' of policies, gave the new policy officer more power to actually edit motions to keep them relevant
Communications Officer’s Report
The biggest things are
The general election. During that as Comms Officer, I put together a couple of adverts to be put out on the party’s main account. A couple of them were then sent out, the voter registration had particularly good reach. I also coordinated a couple of media appearances for our members, on the radio and that kind of thing and helped the main party find young attractive people for the PPB.
For the Fresher’s campaign I designed the leaflets with Vicky and am in the process of working on the online side. There should be a full set of graphics with each box and if all goes according to plan a couple of campaign videos
And then for Bournemouth conference, I’ve been helping to organise the Fringe with Vince, Layla, Jo, Mete Coban, Jonn Elledge and Nate.
Of course, there's the other stuff which comes with Comms as well. Our twitter following is up to almost 9000. Emails have been going out. I won't bore you with the details of click rates, but some have even been opened. And the website is better (in my opinion.) And while I can't take credit for the actual technical parts of it, I can definitely take credit for the pleading that it took to get done.
International Officers’ Report
Andrew and I organised delegations for a lot of trips, including the LYMEC Academy and a Young Leaders event for councillors. Andrew went to the last LYMEC conference with a delegation and we sent someone to IFLRY congress (June) as well.
Membership Development Officer’s Report
I worked closely with HQ during the election to develop an online canvassing initiative which helped busy/ lower income/ international/ disabled members. I worked with local parties to help them develop their youth branches but as ever have had issues obtaining data. Put on two successful new members days at HQ which have taken up most of my time but have really enjoyed.
When I come back from holiday I plan to create a better system for YL itself to store data, as well as work on my manifesto pledges.
Welfare Officer’s Report
Since my last report I have become much more heavily involved in disciplinary actions relating to YL members. I obviously can’t go into detail on specific cases but we now run our own disciplinary rather than previously where the main party would take over. This involves a long process with several steps that you can find if you look up the English party membership rules. Some of these proceedings have taken several months but the party has said it now has confidence in myself and Young Liberals' ability to handle allegations of abusive behaviour.
In terms of trying to improve diversity I’ve become an accredited trainer within the party and designed a session on how to recruit young people to your local party which I gave at York Conference. Hopefully some of you also attended my session on recruiting diverse people which I gave this weekend too.
Following on from the last report we still have two people with first aid training on the exec and I hope to have the same next year. We also still have a first aid kit and sexual health provisions.
The chatbox I feel has become a much more open and friendly place from what I've heard from other members. It's important that it continues in this manner so that new young members of the party feel welcome and they can engage with the party. In an attempt to encourage this we introduced the three post max rule, so that the same voices don't dominate conversation.
Outside of my role I campaigned in a few of the YL Young and Winning action days prior to the election and mainly campaigned in London for the general election. I'm also now one of the Lib Dem candidates for Muswell Hill in the London local elections next year so I have been, and will continue, campaigning heavily to try and see if we can push on and win all three seats.
As well as this I have had to deal with a few personal issues with members. Please don’t hesitate in contacting me by whatever means if you feel worried about anything that’s happened to you as a YL member or if you just need someone to listen.
Campaigns Officer’s Report
Non-Portfolio Officer’s Report