Daisy Cooper: After the scandals, Lib Dems need processes that are fit for purpose

Liberal Democrat complaints procedure flowchart

Liberal Democrat complaints procedure, as at January 2013.

Continuing my series of guests posts from candidates for Liberal Democrat President, today it’s Daisy Cooper talking about one of her priorities. For my own view on the Chris Rennard case, see here.

Daisy Cooper: After the scandals – creating processes that are fit for purpose

The ‘Rennard scandal’ was managed badly. The fact that everybody involved felt let down by the process points to the need for urgent reform. The mistakes themselves were made a long time ago in not dealing with the allegations properly when they were first made. We must implement the Morrissey report in full, but I believe that we also need to take further steps to rebuild confidence in our systems for dealing with complaints.

There have been some positive changes to come out of this: I was one of the first to say publicly (Radio 5 Live) that a criminal standard of proof was too high, and I’m pleased that a process is underway to consider reducing the standard of proof to a civil standard. A pastoral care officer has been appointed and wording has been included into the constitution against bullying and harassment.

I am, with others on Federal Executive, pushing to ensure that the Morrissey ‘one year on’ report, scheduled this autumn, takes place and is conducted thoroughly. As President, I would see it through.

Notwithstanding, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s clear to me, from my work with councillors and activists trying to navigate the party bureaucracy, that processes are still too complex, they involve too many people, and no one is accountable for decisions in any meaningful way.

As President, I would want to work with colleagues to flesh out some ideas for consideration by Conference. These could include:

  • A “responsibility to act” for all elected officials, office holders and staff, and “an opportunity to report” any low-level instances of unacceptable behavior. This would shift the burden away from the recipients of unacceptable behavior (who often don’t want to make a formal complaint until a situation has escalated), onto all party members who would know that unacceptable behavior could be reported. That way, we incentivise members to watch their behavior, and we have a system in place to identify and tackle unacceptable behavior as and when it occurs, and before it escalates.
  • Introduce accountability into the complaints procedure by creating a “Head of HR” type post, with the necessary HR qualifications, and who would have responsibility for making recommendations on disciplinary cases (to the Chief Whip or FE sub-group as appropriate) and would be accountable through the CEO to the FE as a whole.
  • Establish an HR accreditation or qualification for local party officers wanting to take on the portfolio of a ‘pastoral care officer’. Candidates would of course need specialist vetting.

Aside from mistakes, we have an impressive list of Liberal Democrat achievements in government and it is these that I intend to shout about from the rooftops in the coming months.

Also on this site are her previous posts:

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