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Co Chair’s report for AGM 2020

September 28, 2020 6:54 PM
By Gemma Roulston

This is the second report by Gemma Roulston, and Phil Stevens. Our 2 years is coming to an end. It has gone quickly. This means that Gemma has to stand down, due to having been chair for the maximum 4 years (2 years with Robert Adamson, and 2 years with Phil Stevens).

During the last year, we have had given advice to Cardiff Liberal Democrats, The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, and Graham Donald of Bristol Liberal Democrats to help improve the experience of disabled members in those parties. Graham passed on the information onto the Diversity Officer for Bristol Liberal Democrats. We have also given advice to 2 potential members, on how to deal with discrimination, and how to complain (they have since joined us). We have been involved with Jo Hayes, writing her document on the selection of PPCs, as far as the English Candidates Committee is concerned. We have held talks with Richard Whelan to discuss the paper that the West Midlands Diversity and Equality Committee have produced.

We made an official complaint against Danny Chambers, who was our PPC in North Cornwall. The decision to go ahead with the complaint was taken very slowly and carefully. As Layla said in our hustings, those "jokes" are unacceptable and he needs to understand the feelings about them in the disability community. As yet it is still awaiting panel.

Cllr Avril Coelho led on a petition to make sure that disabled people are able to get seats on public transport in London, without having to remove their face mask. The petition was signed by all of our MP's. It was presented to the Deputy Mayor of London in September, and be sent to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport.

In June we had a meeting with Ed Davey, we hope the first of many. We discussed DWP issues for him to raise in Parliament (he held the portfolio for that department). We also discussed other matters, such as what does he think of the fact that we are not an SAO, only an AO. He replied that he thought that was crackers, as we are one of the diversity groups, we should be an SAO. He was asked what could be done to help disabled people among others to participate in more of the committees and working groups, he felt that there should be some way of remote video conferencing for all committees now and in the future. He then talked about his experience as a carer why he wants us to be a more caring party, and what his hopes were for the party.

With the conferences not being either held, or held online, we have not been able to get as much money into our account as last year, in the way of membership, donations, raffle and the selling of Poppy Hasted's booklet - "Writing and Speaking To Disabled People". Those are the downside. On the upside, there has been no physical stall to pay for, and no associated travel costs.

The main event this year was of course our first ever Hustings, which was held on the 18th August. This took about a month to plan, advertise, and prepare for. I hope that you found it interesting and informative, to see what Layla and Ed had to say on disability. My thanks to go our members who submitted questions, the executive for their support and for Victoria Evans, our secretary, who helped me during the evening and in the lead up. I certainly couldn't' have done it without it.

In the coming months, Poppy and Charley Hasted will be working with Abi Bell, from ALDC on a training webinar on Poppy's booklet. This was suggested to us at our stall last year, by Jo Swinson, when she visited our stall. It is great that we can work with them to produce the training. Also, we have started talks with ALDTU, LGBT+ and LibDem Women on working together on areas of common interests.

We are hoping to have meetings with the MPs that Ed has selected for the various portfolios. We have had meetings with Wendy Chamberlain (DWP spokesperson), and Wera Hobhouse (Women and Equalities spokesperson). We have planned a meeting with Jamie Stone (Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and Defence), Sarah Olney (transport, climate change, business), and Munira Wilson (Health). I will be meeting the Education team in Parliament to discuss SEND. We will be also doing a presentation to the Parliamentary team as a whole on the 5th October.

A special thanks goes to Conrad Packwood, who has been an absolute genius behind the scenes. He is the guru for anything to do with the Facebook page. This has now over 400 likes, so people get notified of any new story. We have no idea how that works. We are happy to leave that to him.

I can't go on much further, without paying a great deal of appreciation to Phil Stevens my co-chair. He has been there when I need him and done stuff in the background. I have enjoyed working with him and hope to do so again in the future.

Our thanks go to Victoria, Maureen, Claire, Jemma, Avril, Poppy, Conrad, Catherine, and Phil Clarke. You have all contributed to what has been a great team and executive We hope that the hard work that we have put in this year, will bear the fruits that we all want, LDDA to be a SAO. I think that Robert Adamson would have been proud of what we have done this year.

Gemma Roulston

Phil Stevens.