Sunday, 11 November 2012

Three words to the new FCC - Affordability, Accessibility and Availability


Three words to the new FCC - Affordability, Accessibility and Availability.

Several good people I know were unsuccessful in yesterday's Federal Committee Election results. For FCC in particular, the three people I wanted most in there were Robert Adamson, George Potter and Simon McGrath.

Why? because they either have a record or stood on a platform of making Federal conferences more accessible to a variety of people and from personal experience, have the gusto to actually do something about it.


Alas these people were not to be elected but I'm pleased to see quite a few capable and passionate people were and so conference reform is still a feasible option for the new FCC!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it Committee members, is to make sure conference is more affordable to those on low incomes, more accessible to those with physical impairments and more available. What could I be talking about?

You've guessed it! It's the Three Horsemen of the Conference Apocalypse! Accommodation, Food and Travel! arghhh *shudders*

Accommodation

Going to large cities is part and parcel of being a mainstream political party. We need the space and the travel links but what we don't need is the overly priced rooms and the struggle for accessible availability.

I try desperately at times, six months before each conference to find a room with a wheel-in shower, something I personally require. For next Spring, I phoned the Thistle which has online pictures of very good bathrooms. Problem! they only have accessible bathrooms in their premium suites and so wanted to charge me £1000! for two nights!

I was lucky enough to get a room at the Mecure for £300 for two nights, still out of the price range of many a conference goer! Equally so, those with personal needs usually carry a lot of baggage which means driving down. This results in having to pay £70-100 extra in parking charges, another cost to hit people's already tightened budgets and more than enough to turn others away from even considering attending conference!

FCC needs to explore the practicalities of collective booking - organising members to book hotels in large groups, giving hoteliers assured bookings and members cheaper rates.

The Lib Dem Hotel Bookings sites are useless for those with physical needs whom require much more detailed information about the rooms. Not sure whether you have special rates on these sites but better collaboration with local tourist organisations needs to be had, in order to ensure people aren't racing round for a dwindling amount of rooms with proper access!

Food

I appreciate its very difficult to make a dent in these costs but I think more vouchers and more group dinners that are more affordable would be a good way to start.

Some delegates miss dinner or lunch during conference week and not just because they're too busy! relying on hors d'oeuvres to keep you going is not healthy nor should be recommended by the party through making proper meals unaffordable.

Travel

Again another difficult one but I think having a system whereby people can orangise lifts in cars would definitely help. Not always easy to do independently as pick-ups may be in different regions and so a centralised point would help immensely.

Give delegates proper advice about split-ticketting for trains and even see if we can get more travel discounts. It might only provide a small change but result in a big difference.

Splitting your ticket over long journeys saves money!!
These are some of the biggest issues facing conference attendance. Am I the only one who thought Brighton's turnout was not too dissimilar to this year's Spring Conference? With the continuing drop of party memberships, all conferences are going to get gradually smaller.

People are becoming politically flexible and we have a growing supporter base, we should definitely explore online participation of conferences. Streaming the debates, secure online voting and VOIP speeches - all things to be seriously explored. We can and should charge for this too mind but it must be affordable!


The future of conferences means we need to see radical reform and if anyone is capable of such reform, it has to be liberal democrats! Nevertheless, lets bare in mind Conference brings in a lot of funding for the party, so I fully expect a throttling by my friend Ian Wrigglesworth ;) (party Treasurer) in calling for such investments but they are just that, investments!

The new FCC must stop this decline, battle against the three horsemen, increase Affordability, Accessibility and Availability of conference and ensure its democratic mandate continues in representing the heart of the party and not just its apex!



4 comments:

  1. Well done, Greg for your excellent new blog site, which I am sure must meet the Mark Pack / Stephen Tall standard for readability, layout and attractiveness ! Not to mention your usual clear, eloquent and well-argued content. How could anyone not be persuaded ! All the best.

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  2. One thing that puzzles me about conference accommodation is the decline of the old schemes to match up conference reps with local party members.

    It used to be: local member puts up a conference rep, who makes a donation to the local party. Result - member raises money for their local party, local party is better off and conference rep saves money. Winners all round.

    Shame this doesn't seem to happen much (at all?) now.

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  3. Great post Greg - this is certainly an issue for many party members in these tough times.

    Mark - nice ideas - This will need good internal party communications - so I think you are in perfect position to make this happen! We have around 5 thousand people attending conference so probably one of those small changes that makes a big difference.

    We could also explore other venues. Ive attended conferences on university campuses, using university accommodation which certainly caters for proper access, and at holiday parks. These are generally cost effective and can be booked as a group.

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  4. A good blog to read Greg.

    Years ago, I was involved with the local Tourist Information Centre and if going to another town/city, I would get their details online and phone them as they know all their local accommodation and they get a fee from bookings.

    No need to go for the big hotels that screw delegates when there are conferences. Use the TIC's as an alternative means of finding accommodation.

    I look forward to your next blog.

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