Delegates at the Co-operative Party annual conference discussed a number of rule changes, and voted in favour of a rule change that allocated local parties one vote per member instead of one vote per £25 paid to the national party. This change required a two thirds majority in order to be carried due to the fact that it included a rule change
Another rule change approved by delegates was to enable the Party to issue membership cards that have more than a year’s duration. This required a simple majority.
Delegates also passed a rule change to remove a paragraph from the Rule Book section which stipulated that a part of the membership fee would be paid to the head office for registration of membership. The paragraph was no longer required as individual membership subscriptions are to be paid nationally. A rule change which updates the model rules for voluntary and branch parties to remove the reference to individual membership subscriptions was also passed with a simple majority vote.
A rule change deleting the reference to concessionary rates subsidised by the local party was also passed.
Last year the conference moved in a motion a rule change to membership rules. This change asked for the introduction of a paragraph saying the National Executive Committee would take into account the special circumstances of a member wishing to be and remain eligible for membership, with regards to the requirement to be a member at the address where he/she is registered. This rule change had been adopted by the NEC and required a simple majority.
NEC member Clare Neill said the Party wanted to increase youth membership. The Party is currently losing 40% of young members when they move from £5 for (the rate for 18-22) to £25 a year, the standard membership rate for 2014. The NEC recommended that the young members rate be increased to £10 a year or £1 a month to make the transition from the 18-22 rate to standard membership rate easier.
Karen Wilkie, deputy general secretary of the party responded to members’ concerns that they would receive a lower amount from the national party if membership fees were to be collected at national level, rather than at branch level.
Members currently pay £25 to local party, which pays for each member a £21 affiliation fee to the national party, keeping £4 per member. “The impact on local parties will be the same,” she said.
Richard Bickle was elected for tree years to the Conference Arrangements Committee.
Three organisational motions were submitted for consideration.
A motion by North East and North Cumbria Party Council calling on the Co-operative Party to issue membership cards to members paying by direct debit only after it has been taken was remitted.
The North West North Party Council has also proposed a motion to devolve as much power and possible to local branches from the centre of the Party. It suggested establishing regional co-ordinating bodies with limited powers restricted to allowing co-ordinating of Party activities. The motion was carried with one amendment submitted by the Sussex Party Council.
A third organisational motion by Cambridge and South & West Essex Co-operative Party Council was opposed. The motion asked that one session of the conference should be open for motions on any topic not covered in the main policy documents, that conference should be balloted on their order of importance and that as many as possible of them be debated in the time allocated.
Two emergency motions, on TTIP legislation and reform on voting by MPs in the House of Commons in light of the changing the powers of the Scottish Parliament, were also due to be discussed, but were taken forward by the NEC without debate due to the lack of time.