What’s the state of the Liberal Democrat finances, and how is the party governed?

The Reports to Conference for the party’s autumn conference and the consultation document on party governance are now all out. You can read them in full below, but first a few highlights including on the state of the party’s finances:

  • The excellent and long-serving Ben Williams has finally departed the Whips Office after 17 years working for the party. Thanks for all you did Ben.
  • The governance review publishes (for the first time, I think) diversity figures for conference reps – both federal and regional – and for local party officers:
    Lib Dem diversity figures 2015
  • The governance review also includes two diagrams that attempt to document how the party’s structures work and which (unlike the notorious diagram which did the rounds a few years back or indeed the 1980s version) they’re actually pretty well laid-out given what they’re trying to explain, even if the design is still several padding points short of high quality. That no-one has ever decided to apply the party’s best design skills to explaining how the party works is itself a thought-provoking detail.**Liberal Democrat governance structure 2015 - part 1 Liberal Democrat governance structure 2015 - part 2
  • The ‘Organiser Programme’ idea which I coined and championed is seeing the light of day as part of a new Leadership Programme: “to provide useful* training and mentoring to up and coming leaders in the party, from those on local party executives, to candidates in local or national elections, or staff members including local organisers” .
  • Being out of government is expected to make a huge dent in the party’s conference income. The 2016 budget for conference income is £850,000. In 2011 – the same point in the last Parliamentary cycle – it was £1,569,114.
  • Not all the general election fundraising targets have been hit yet – hence the carefully worded statement that, “general election expenditure was broadly in line with the budget and work is continuing to achieve the major donor fundraising target”.
  • The party finally cleared its historic accumulated deficit last year and so started 2015 with a surplus. This means that there isn’t any immediate financial crunch, but £500,000 is listed in the 2016 budget as “savings to be identified in budget setting process”. That’s around 10% of expenditure.


* This is the best use of the word “useful” in any Liberal Democrat conference paperwork ever. FACT.

** To be clear: it would be wrong to criticise those who have been asked to artwork the various diagrams over the years, as I’m sure they have done so to the best of the abilities. The mistake is for the party not to ask its most talented people at producing such diagrams to produce them – which is what you would do if you were to take explaining how the party works really seriously.


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