Good news as Lib Dems banish the ghost of Gordon Brown from party’s membership system

Gordon Brown’s complicated tax credits had nothing on the complexity of financial arrangements buried within the Liberal Democrats membership system. To the outside world, it was simple enough: you pay, you join. But what happens to the money then? How it got divided up within the party – which bit of the party got what share of your membership subscription – was fearsomely complicated.

Were you a new member joining a local party by direct debit? Or a lapsed member renewing via cash paid to a Liberal Youth stall at a freshers fair? Or simply renewing your membership via credit card on the federal website? Huge numbers of options generating a very complicated (and therefore at time fragile) backend set of IT systems, not to mention errors and administration costs.

So it’s great news that Austin Rathe and his colleagues at party HQ have been trying both to massively simplify systems, yet also return to providing local parties with a good direct financial incentive to recruit new members, renew lapsing members and re-recruit former members.

Here is the key information about the scheme from the party:

Currently your local party receives a maximum of 5% of the money paid by members.

From October 1st your local party can receive up to 40% of the money paid by your members if your membership is growing.

Here’s how it will work. Each quarter we’ll pay you a share of the total membership income from all of your members according to how much your membership is growing:

  • If your membership doesn’t grow, you’ll get what you get now (5% in England, Wales and Scotland have their own separate arrangements)
  • If your overall membership grows at all, you’ll get 20% of the total money paid by all of your members
  • If your overall membership has grown by more than 10, you’ll get 40%.

This new deal is open to every local party, and every local party can grow. We’ve seen these year that Bosworth and Ashfield, both non-held seats in the East Midlands, Kingston in London and East Dunbartonshire in Scotland have all significantly grown their memberships by simply going out and asking existing supporters to join the party.

A good move – a simple scheme but one that encourages local parties to do more membership work (important given the ever-present temptation of just looking to recruit deliverers) and one that keeps it simple whilst still encouraging local parties to get more of their members to switch to direct debit (as those automatic renewals then make it easier for the local party to hit the growth thresholds).

For Caron Lindsay’s take on the scheme, see her post on Lib Dem Voice.

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