AGM 2018: Our preferred way to change the voting system

Our preferred way to change the voting system

Proposer: Alan Debenham        

Seconder:  –

This meeting resolves:

1.   To adopt as our preferred way to change the voting system in local and general elections is:

a.  All existing electoral wards or constituencies to have their boundaries enlarged by about 10% in terms of total voter numbers

b.  The resulting correlated 10% cut in number of Councillors or MPs to be put into ‘regional top-up pools’ for allocation to parties in that region, on the basis of ensuring that in the final overall tally of party votes, as much as possible, the number of seats won by each party are in proportion to the total votes cast for it

c.   That otherwise voting within each ward or constituency remains the same FPTP system, or changes to an AV system as a part or the above overall change

d.  That the voting age be simultaneously revised to include all those over 16

AGM 2018: Campaigning for a constituent assembly

Campaigning for a constituent assembly

Proposer: David Bracknell 

Seconder:  –

This meeting notes:

  1. The political constitution of the United Kingdom is scattered across many historic acts and conventions, and is difficult to know for the average British voter. This is a risk to democracy.

  2. Britain currently faces may political disputes that are fundamentally constitutional in nature, such as the power of parliament to decide on trade agreements and military interventions.

  3. Britain also inherits many unresolved constitutional quandaries, such as the status of Northern Ireland, the status of British Overseas Territories and their citizens, the composition of the Upper House of Parliament, the legal establishment of the Church of England, and many others.

  4. Every electoral issue is ultimately a constitutional issue.

  5. This meeting believes:

  1. That Unlock Democracy should become a single-issue NGO, exclusively committed to leading a popular campaign to establish a national constituent assembly for the creation of a British codified constitution.

  2. That Unlock Democracy should abandon all other campaigns besides that for a constituent assembly, and beside those referring to the constitutional laws that might be passed by such an assembly, if only to strengthen the point that it is constitutional change that is necessary.

  3. That Unlock Democracy should publicly promote any proposal for a British codified constitution that meets good democratic standards and publicly oppose any proposal that lacks democratic standards, while taking account of the views of NGOs like Freedom House, or the Economist’s Democracy Index, and institutions like the Council of Europe, and the OECD, etc.

This meeting resolves:

  1. To use conventional popular campaign tactics, such as adopting easily recognisable symbols, colours, and mottos, joining demonstrations, speaking at public events, and contributing to print and broadcast news debates, to raise the greatest possible awareness of, and controversy for, the cause.

  2. To invest further in drives to increase the membership of Unlock Democracy, and to make membership expansion the secondary aim of every campaign and initiative.

  3. To consider renaming the organization to suit this singleness of purpose, to something like “Constitution”, or “Charter”, or “Covenant”, and asks the Council to present options to the next AGM.

AGM 2018: Elections Rule Changes

Elections Rule Changes

Proposer: Rachel Collinson

Seconder: Peter Hirst

Following the 2018 Council Elections, the Returning Officer reported to Council on the process. This report recommended a full review of Unlock Democracy’s internal election procedures, and identified several short-term changes which can be made to improve our internal democracy. The wider review will be conducted over the next year, with this constitutional amendment implementing the lesser changes.

This meeting notes:

  1. That our current election rules do not say how long the nomination period should be in our Council elections;

  2. That allowing more time for the return of ballots by post would encourage maximum participation in elections;

  3. That permitting members to vote electronically would minimise costs and further increase participation;

This meeting resolves:

  1. To amend the first sentence of Appendix B, 2.1 to read "All members shall be notified of the opening of nominations at least 28 days in advance." 

  2. To amend the first sentence of Appendix B, 2.5 to read: "Voting papers, a copy of the candidates' election statements, a method by which the member can submit their vote without cost, and notification of the close of poll shall be sent to all members within 21 days of the close of nominations, which will be 14 days after the opening of nominations."

  3. To amend Appendix B, 2.6 to read "The date for close of poll shall be set no less than 21 days after the voting papers have been sent to all members."

Local Democracy needs addressing

Proposer:            Vicky Seddon

Seconder:          Jenny Cronin

Unlock Democracy recognises that there are serious  democratic deficits in how decision making that affects local communities take place

Unlock Democracy notes:

  • How highly centralised decision making is in our country
  • How “austerity” has been imposed particularly heavily on local authorities
  • How changes to the funding formula for local authorities implemented by the coalition government (but poorly reported) hit the most needy communities hardest, whilst increasing resources for the most prosperous areas
  • How the removal of powers from local to central is still happening, with local authorities (for example) given additional requirements to fulfil without any additional resource
  • How ad hoc “devolution” agreements with elected mayors have been imposed on local areas without the consent of their populations and hence lack democratic credibility as well as thorny issues where two tier authorities are involved
  • How first past the post voting in local elections is still delivering “one party states” with no elected opposition to hold councils  to account
  • How BREXIT processes and outcomes as conducted by the Government presently threaten to remove devolved powers and return them to central governance
  • How local democracy groups seek to engage with democratic deficit issues in their localities

This meeting recognises the multiplicity of demands on the resources of Unlock Democracy, and the requirement to prioritise its work. Within those resource constraints, however, recognising the current significance of the challenge to local democracy, it resolves to seek to provide frameworks to enable local groups to coordinate their efforts by: 

  • Looking for opportunities (including funding bids)  to explore local democracy issues
  • Establishing communication networks with local groups and activists 
  • Establishing a subcommittee of local activists, staffed by themselves, to coordinate and support the work of local groups, mainly digitally
  • Making space at Council and AGM for local democracy issues, in appropriate formats

Constitutional Motion: Changes to Rodell Directors

Proposer:            Phil Starr

Seconder:          Vicky Seddon

This meeting resolves that the following changes be made to Appendix D of Unlock Democracy’s constitution in relation to Rodell Properties Ltd.

2.1.a) Insert after first sentence:
One of these shall be the Vice Chair for Rodell who shall be Chair of the Rodell board of Directors.

2.1.a) Add at end:
If there is no suitable candidate for the reserved places, the remaining place shall be open to all candidates.

2.1.b) Add after “Single Transferable Voting system”:
in accordance with the rules for election to Council.

2.1.b) Add after “and at least one shall be a woman.”:
If there is no suitable candidate for the reserved places, the remaining place shall be open to all candidates.

2.2) Change to:
No member may serve as both a full voting member of Unlock Democracy’s Management Board and as a directly elected Rodell Director. Directors appointed to the Management Board shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director after the first meeting of new Management Board.

2.3) Change to:
Directly elected Directors shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director at the end of their term of office which is immediately after the closure of the first meeting of new Management Board.

2.6) Change to:
All ballot papers shall be kept for two years. If a casual vacancy arises, the ballot papers shall be recounted by the Returning Officer to fill that vacancy in the first instance. In the event there are less than 4 elected directors following an election or no further unsuccessful election candidates to replace a director who has resigned, Council shall have the right to appoint a director or directors to ensure there are 4 non Management Board directors of Rodell.

2.7) Change to:
The quorum of all meetings with Directors shall be 4.

Appendix D , Section 2 will therefore read in its entirety as follows:

2 Directors

2.1.        There shall be 7 directors of Rodell Properties Ltd. They shall consist of the following:

a)  Three members who shall be members of and appointed by the first meeting of each new Management Board. One of these shall be the Vice Chair for Rodell who shall be Chair of the Rodell board of Directors. In keeping with the organisation's existing gender balance rules (Constitution 4.2.2.), at least one director appointed in this way shall be a man and at least one shall be a woman. If there is no suitable candidate for the reserved places, the remaining place shall be open to all candidates.

b)  Four members who shall be directly elected by members of Unlock Democracy for four year terms of office, with two elected in a single constituency every two years using the Single Transferable Voting system in accordance with the rules for election to Council. In keeping with the organisation's existing gender balance rules (Constitution 4.2.2.), at least one director appointed in this way shall be a man and at least one shall be a woman. If there is no suitable candidate for the reserved places, the remaining place shall be open to all candidates. The ballot to elect directors to Rodell Properties Ltd shall be held to coincide with the elections to elect the Council.

2.2.        No member may serve as both a full voting member of Unlock Democracy’s Management Board and as a directly elected Rodell Director. Directors appointed to the Management Board shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director after the first meeting of new Management Board.

2.3.        Directly elected Directors shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director at the end of their term of office which is immediately after the closure of the first meeting of new Management Board.

2.4.        If a directly elected Rodell Director is subsequently elected as a Management Board member, they shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director.

2.5.        If a Director ceases to be a member of Unlock Democracy, they shall be automatically deemed to have resigned as a Rodell Director.

2.6.        All ballot papers shall be kept for two years. If a casual vacancy arises, the ballot papers shall be recounted by the Returning Officer to fill that vacancy in the first instance. In the event there are less than 4 elected directors following an election or no further unsuccessful election candidates to replace a director who has resigned, Council shall have the right to appoint a director or directors to ensure there are 4 non Management Board directors of Rodell.

2.7.        The quorum of all meetings with Directors shall be 4.

2.8.        The duties of the directors shall be as follows:

a.   to exercise overall stewardship of Rodell on behalf of Unlock Democracy and the wider politics we represent;

b.   setting targets for Rodell, approving a business plan (and any changes to it) and receiving regular reports on the progress of the plan;

c.    oversight and scrutiny of Rodell, staff working on behalf of Rodell and the activities of the Advisory Board;

d.   manage the assets in such a way as to maximise the long term income for the shareholder in accordance with Rodell's ethical policy;

2.9.        The Directors of Rodell shall give a report of their activities to each Annual General Meeting on Unlock Democracy.

Constitutional Motion: Elections Rule Changes

Proposer:            Vicky Seddon

Seconder:          Rachel Collinson

Following the 2016 Council Elections, the Returning Officer reported to Council on the process. This report recommended a number of changes to Appendix B of the Constitution, which regulates our elections procedures. This constitutional amendment implements those changes.

This meeting resolves that the following changes be made to Appendix B of Unlock Democracy’s constitution:

2.2)   Add at end:

Under no circumstances should nominations be accepted, in any format, after the deadline unless:

a)  there has been a technical failure in the online system;  and

b)  the Returning Officer has agreed on a case-by-case basis to accept a late nomination caused by such a failure

2.4)   Delete:

Members shall not be compelled to use the official nomination form to stand.

          Replace with:

Any nomination not made using the official nomination form shall be deemed invalid.

2.4)   Delete:

NomInations by email shall be deemed acceptable.

          Replace with:

Nominations may be submitted online, by email or by post, always provided that they are on the official form, and signed or, if submitted electronically, otherwise validated by the candidate.

2.5)   Insert after the first sentence:

Information supplied by candidates about their ethnicity and gender will be included in the members’ ballot pack”

Constitutional Motion: Elections Spending Limit

Proposer:            Danny Zinkus Sutton

Seconder:          Andrew Manning

Appendix B of the Constitution, which regulates our elections procedures, currently specifies a spending limit for Council elections to be set by the Annual General Meeting for each election. This arrangement was brought in at the 2013 AGM, which set a limit of £10 for the 2014 elections. The same limit of £10 was approved by the 2015 AGM for the 2016 elections.

This proposal would set the limit of £10 into Appendix B of the constitution, eliminating the need for this item of business at future AGMs. The limit could still be changed by amending the constitution, which would require a two-thirds majority.

If this constitutional amendment is approved, then Election Item 2, Election Spending Limit, will not be considered by the AGM.

This meeting resolves that the following changes be made to Appendix B of Unlock Democracy’s constitution:

2.3.f) Replace “the sum agreed by the AGM” with “£10”

Constitutional Motion: Joint membership

Proposer: James Grindrod

Seconder: Stuart Weir

This meeting notes:

1.    That section 3.1.2 of the Unlock Democracy constitution states:

The membership subscription shall be set by the Annual General Meeting which shall last until the following Annual General Meeting. The Annual General Meeting may set a specific membership subscription for benefit claimants, unwaged individuals and individuals on a fixed income.

2.    That several hundred of Unlock Democracy’s members currently have more than one name associated with their membership; that they contribute at the standard subscription rate; and that their status as voting members is currently unclear.

This meeting believes:

1.    That a category of joint membership should be established, allowing two people at the same address to pay a single membership subscription at a rate to be set by the Annual General Meeting, with both being considered members of Unlock Democracy.

This meeting resolves:

1.    To amend the second sentence of section 3.1.2 of the Unlock Democracy constitution to read:

The Annual General Meeting may set a specific membership subscription for benefit claimants, unwaged individuals and individuals on a fixed income, and may also set a joint membership subscription for two people at the same address.

2.    To set the joint membership subscription rate at £30. The associated rebate to local groups shall be £9 and the rebate to Devolved Organisations shall be £3.

Constitutional Motion: Setting membership rates

Proposer: James Grindrod

Seconder: Stuart Weir

 

This meeting notes:

1.    That section 3.1.2 of the Unlock Democracy constitution states:

The membership subscription shall be set by the Annual General Meeting which shall last until the following Annual General Meeting. The Annual General Meeting may set a specific membership subscription for benefit claimants, unwaged individuals and individuals on a fixed income.

This meeting believes:

1.    That the Annual General Meeting should continue to have the power to set the rate of membership subscriptions, but that the AGM only needs to consider the rate if there is a proposal to change it.

This meeting resolves:

1.    To amend the first sentence of section 3.1.2 of the Unlock Democracy constitution to read:

The membership subscription shall be set by the Annual General Meeting, which shall last until changed by a subsequent Annual General Meeting.

The Brexit Process

Proposer: Stephen Carter

Seconder: Sepi Golzari-Munro

Unlock Democracy notes:

1.    That Unlock Democracy does not take and has never taken a position on the UK’s membership of the European Union;

2.    That the UK’s decision to leave the EU nonetheless raises profound and complex questions of constitutional change, which could be resolved in many different ways;

Unlock Democracy believes:

1.    That in these circumstances democratic consultation is essential to the legitimacy of the path which is eventually chosen;

2.    That the prominence of calls to ‘take back control’ during the Brexit campaign adds additional weight to arguments for strengthening British democracy;

3.    That there is genuine cause for concern over the influence of private lobbyists on the Brexit process

Unlock Democracy resolves:

1.    To campaign for the fullest possible democratic engagement and control around the Brexit process and associated constitutional changes, including full parliamentary debate and other checks and balances against unilateral executive action or undue influence from private lobbyists.

Review of Parliamentary Boundaries

Proposer: Vicky Seddon

Seconder: Jenny Cronin

The current proposals from the Boundary Commission, to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, and which are now out for consultation, are flawed. The Commission has had to work to the Government approach to the process, despite advising against some of it elements. Problems arise because: 

  • the move to individual voter registration has not been introduced in a manner that ensures full registration
  • the proposals are based on number of registered voters, rather than on the size of the population that is eligible to vote. Communities of high mobility (e.g. areas with lots of rental properties, often city centres, or student areas) show the lowest registration rates,and hence under these proposals will be under-represented
  • the figures used in these proposals are those voters registered by December 2015, but, largely due to the EU referendum, there have been many more registrations since then. Why not use the most up to date figures?
  • community boundaries (whether natural communities, ward boundaries, local authority boundaries) should be honoured, but in seeking to equalise the size of constituencies, the + or – 5% that has been used is too tight to enable those natural community boundaries to be respected; other suggestions are for 7.5% or 10%

No doubt many of these points will be made in the consultation process that ends on 5th  December, but to prevent such a flawed set of proposals becoming the basis for the general election expected in 2020, there is a need for a significant campaign to expose the unfortunate biases which will occur if they are agreed. To prevent our democracy being further undermined, Unlock Democracy will support that campaign.

Referendums in UK

Proposer: Vicky Seddon

Seconder: Debbie Chay

Our experience this year demonstrates the unsatisfactory nature of our current way of doing things, with lack of clarity about the implications of the vote, poor information and much misinformation, and no requirement of a substantial majority before a hugely significant decision is taken.

Referendums need to be used rarely, cautiously and where there is good preparation, and clarity about consequent outcomes.

For a referendum to genuinely reflect the settled will of the people, there needs to be:

  • a political consensus that the issue should be put to the electorate, rather than decided through our representative democracy structures
  • sufficient safeguards in any proposed referendum against making major changes to the constitution without overwhelming support. Both turnouts and majority thresholds should be included
  • clarity about just what the next steps will be in terms of putting the outcome (if successful) into practice
  • a well-informed and balanced debate with misinformation and prejudices properly challenged

Such requirements should be incorporated into a written constitution.

Truth in referendums

Proposer: Judith King

Seconder: TBC

Unlock Democracy notes:

1.    That there was widespread concern about the misrepresentations of the truth and misinformation published by both sides during the EU referendum campaign.

2.    Moreover, according to the Electoral Reform Society, only 33% of the population felt informed or very well informed a week before the referendum. 

3.    That the Electoral Reform Society’s report on the EU Referendum recommends that ‘an official body – either the Electoral Commission or an appropriate alternative – should be empowered to intervene when overtly misleading information is disseminated by the official campaigns’ [1]

Unlock Democracy believes:

1.    We cannot have an effective, worthwhile democracy without a well informed public. This is of critical importance in underpinning all the other work of Unlock Democracy.  

2.    It is crucial to improve the accuracy of information in future elections, referenda, and other forms of public debate. 

Unlock Democracy resolves:

1.    To campaign for a supervisory body (such as the Electoral Commission) to be granted powers to intervene when misleading information is presented by campaigners and stop further dissemination

2.    To campaign for an increase in the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to enable them to investigate and sanction MPs involved in significant misrepresentation of facts in a public context. 

[1] Electoral Reform Society, It’s Good to Talk, p10 (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/Its-good-to-talk-2016-EU-Referendum-Report.pdf)

Andrew Manning - 2016 Rodell Manifesto

Andrew Manning - 2016 Rodell Manifesto

WHO I AM:
Andrew Manning.
51 years young.
employed royal mail and former cwu union rep.Also part time tefl tutor
Formerly member Labour campaign electoral reform(lcer)national executive.

Formerly,COOP group-Essex&Herts area management committee.
Stood for marginal ward(Basildon council)three times and for Essex county council,once.

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