November 2011 – January 2012
(a PDF version of this document, is available here).
This report covers the three month period 1 November 2011– 31 January 2012 – the three months running up to the quarterly meeting of ALDC’s national Management Committee. The report is being made available to ALDC members, and to our key Liberal Democrat partners, but is not for further circulation.
1 AIM 1 – More Liberal Democrat Councillors at every level
Training for Liberal Democrat volunteer activists culminated in November 2011 with ALDC’s series of Kickstart events.
Three events took place over three weekends: a Welsh one-day Kickstart in Llandrindod Wells, a Scottish one-day Kickstart in Perth, and the national weekend Kickstart just north of Birmingham.
All three events were well attended with c 60 at each of the Scottish and Welsh events and 150 at the weekend event.
Kickstart events feature a mixture of training sessions, together with time to work with an experienced mentor to develop and hopefully improve on your campaign plan. Obviously the latter is more effective over a weekend. At the weekend event we also ran three “drop-in” sessions for the first time which proved a success with delegates on Connect, PagePlus and online campaigning.
Kickstart events only work because of the time given by a number of volunteer trainers and mentors and we’re really grateful for their time. Thanks also to speakers at the Kickstart events which included Andrew Stunell MP, Hilary Stephenson, Lord Mike Storey, Kirsty Williams AM and Jim Hume MSP.
1.2 Candidate Support
ALDC collects details of who the Liberal Democrat candidates are in each round of local elections. To enable us to best focus the support we do offer, we now only ask local parties to tell us who their ‘target’ and ‘development’ candidates are (so we don’t bombard ‘paper’ candidates with advice!)
In December 2011 we started the candidate support programme by sending each candidate a free Candidates Handbook. This has since been supplemented by a regular candidates’ email. These will become more frequent up to the elections on 3 May 2012.
Our focus in the Candidate Support programme this year has been about sustaining morale for candidates and their teams, as well as signposting people to where more information and resources are available.
Three months out from the election (3 March 2012) we will launch our annual Election Helpline service for all candidates.
1.3 Financial Support
ALDC administers the G8 grants process, made up of resources from the Federal, English, Scottish and Welsh parties.
Stage 1 was paid out in Autumn 2011 to reward early campaigning activity in Summer 2011. Stage 2 grants were awarded in England and Wales in January 2012 to a total of 48 local areas to reward continued campaign activity in Autumn 2011. A similar process for Scotland is to follow shortly.
ALDC’s Management Committee is currently starting discussions and review of the G8 process to see how we best use this resource in the future.
1.4 Campaign Resources
During the last three months we launched packs 2 and 3 of our popular artwork packs. These are PagePlus templates for use by ALDC members in their local campaigning. We produce these in three different colour variations (full colour, 2 colour and black and white) to suit parties of all levels of resource and technology. They are only available to ALDC members and we do not make them available to anyone else.
The packs in November and January focussed on postal vote recruitment, direct mail, squeeze materials and new voter information.
ALDC has identified improving how we help volunteer activists campaign as one of our priorities for 2012. As a result we will be starting a series of “Campaign Toolkits” to help people campaign locally on various issues. The first two of these are in February 2012 on “Operation Clean Streets” (campaigning on litter, fly tipping, graffiti etc.) and “Fair Deal for Older People”.
We are very keen that our members find these resources most useful and look forward to getting feedback on the new toolkits.
1.5 Intelligence and Support
In January 2012 ALDC organised two Seminars to develop campaigning practice and ideas. At the start of the new year we brought together the cities (with Liberal Democrat council groups) who face forced elected mayor referenda on 3rd May to consider how best we respond and campaign (against) the proposals.
Later in the month we brought together around 18 activists from around the country for a discussion on ‘Fighting Labour’ to share best practice and ideas on how to counter the Labour Party at a local level. The outcomes of this Seminar will be shared over the coming months in guidance and training.
We continue to work very closely with colleagues in the rest of the Party and also with Liberal Democrats in the various programmes of the Local Government Association to ensure that there is a coordinated approach and response to the local elections in May 2012. ALDC is leading on gathering intelligence across the areas facing elections and helping ensure that support can be brought into play where needed.
2 AIM 2 – For Liberal Democrat Councillors to be the Best
2.1 Members’ Communications
ALDC’s weekly members’ email continues to be sent to all our members every week – though we did take a couple of weeks off for Christmas! At the start of January all our emails have had a makeover to make them a bit more visually up to date and the weekly email is now known as the ALDC Members’ Email. The refresh has also been applied to our weekly by-election emails and to the Candidates’ email programme.
Communications is one of three key focuses for 2012 and we are recruiting a new Communications Officer in the spring to help us take forward how we best make use of social media and also to take the myCouncillor system to the next stage of its development.
ALDC has been involved in the selection of the new campaigns database for Liberal Democrats (“Connect”) from the early stage which is now coming on stream for local parties.
In November we published a “Getting Started with Connect” booklet and a free copy was sent to each ALDC member in December 2011. A great new member benefit for ALDC members will be the casework module of Connect. This will be free for ward work (i.e. for councillors and candidates) for ALDC members. We are waiting until Connect gets started for the essential winning elections part of the system, before we launch the casework system.
We continue to provide advice to ALDC members on a wide variety of issues that you come across in your work as councillors and local campaigners.
There is a major review of the online advice that we provide at present with a view to improving what advice is available to members directly online and we hope to launch the first part of this improvement in the spring.
There have been no major conferences during the period of this report but we have been developing plans for our 2012 programme of conferences which will be circulated to members shortly.
2.5 Leadership and Projects
ALDC is a delivery partner for the Liberal Democrat Next Generation Programme of the Local Government Association. We have an excellent cohort of 17 Lib Dem councillors on the 2011-12 programme who have recently completed the second part of their programme which was a study weekend at Warwick University focussing on “Our Local Communities”.
We’re also working with the LGA on two other projects this year. “Winning with Localism” will be familiar to many members in England as we develop our work as a Party around localism and making the most of the Localism Act. A new publication made possible by the project is being published by ALDC in February 2012 and the work will continue during the year. ALDC has also been working with the Liberal Democrat ‘Be a Councillor” programme to encourage more and more diverse range people to come forward as potential councillors.
2.6 Representing Councillors
ALDC represents its members on a number of Party and associated bodies including the Campaigns and Communications Committee, the Local Elections Team, the English Council Executive and the LGA Liberal Democrat Group.
We have been particularly keen to develop and strengthen our links with two key partners in the period. This has included establishing a regular pattern of ALDC’s Chief Executive meeting with the key people in the Elections and Skills Team on a regular basis and a number of meetings to see how ALDC and the LGA Liberal Democrat group can work more effectively together.
3 SUPPORTING AIM – For ALDC to have the capacity to deliver, now and in the future
Just before the May 2011 local elections ALDC had more members than ever before in its history. Our strategic aim since then has been to maintain membership at almost these levels, and we gave ourselves a target of 2,800 members.
At the end of 2011 we slightly undershot this target with 2758 members. We’re really grateful that most Liberal Democrat councillors, and so many other activists and ‘campaigners’ choose to continue to support ALDC in this way.
Membership will continue to remain a challenge throughout 2012 and we have a number of initiatives planned and in place including strong marketing of our 50% discount schemes to both 2012 candidates and to newly elected Councillors.
Group membership remains strong and we have been pleased to welcome into membership Harrogate and Uttlesford.
ALDC receive a huge boost in early December 2011 when we received confirmation that the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust was to support ALDC for the next three years to enable us to employ three new Development Officers based around the country.
The new staff will enable us to work with volunteer Lib Dem activists up and down the country, and also to provide some targeted support to areas to help them develop each year. The grant is a Great Britain-wide grant, so will include work in England, Scotland and Wales. The staff will not be working in ‘strategic seat’ areas (target Parliamentary seats) and we will ensure that we work very closely with Regional and State parties to ensure best use of this resource.
The Federal Party continued its policy of reducing ALDC’s grant with a further 10% cut in our grant which will take effect during 2012.
Our accounts for 2011 have not yet been closed but we are expecting a break even or modest surplus on the year and will report on this once our accounts have been audited. The Management Committee will consider a revised budget at its next meeting, following the JRRT grant, which will be for a broadly break-even budget at c £450,000 turnover.
Following the JRRT grant and to best meet the strategic priorities in 2012 a small restructuring of the staff team has taken place at the start of 2012. This has included creating new posts in Hebden Bridge of Campaigns Officer (to take a lead on the central support we provide to help Lib Dem volunteer activists campaign) and a Communications Officer (to take a lead on how ALDC best communicates, including use of social media, and also to lead on the MyCouncillor system).
Recruitment for three new posts takes place in February 2012 and we will be letting members and partners know the new team when it is in place.
ALDC’s Management Committee continued into its second year of the new two-year term of office. The Committee reviewed ALDC’s 5-year Strategic Plan, and agree three areas of focus for 2012: CAMPAIGNING (developing ALDC’s support for Lib Dem volunteer activists); COMMUNICATIONS (developing how ALDC communicates with its members and external partners) and QUALITY (ensuring a consistent high level of quality for everything ALDC does).
The Management Committee has established a number of sub-committees that meet by phone-conference. The Officers Group meet every month to review the detailed work of the Association. Our two other Sub-Committees (Governance and Policy) are both reviewing their focus before starting on a new work programme for 2012.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have further queries, comments or ideas.
Cllr Tim Pickstone