This is the question some members have asked us in the last few weeks. Here are some thoughts on this:

Comparison with the current structure

The current structure has a number of different bodies.  In total, they comprise around 81 people, compared with 63 proposed in the new structure (45 for Council, 11 for the Political Executive and 7 for the Board).

  • GPRC with 20 members
  • GPEX with up to 22 people attending
  • Conference Committee with more than 6 members
  • Policy Development Committee with up to 10 members
  • Campaigns Committee with 5 members
  • Equalities and Diversity Committee with at least 5 members
  • International Committee with 5 members
  • Green World Editorial Board with a minimum of 8 members

But it’s not just a numbers game. Of course, we realise that the current structure means that different groups meet separately and we recognise the concern that members have expressed that a body with 45 members is unwieldy.

We have done a lot of research into the governance structures of other Green Parties. For example, the French-speaking Green Party in Belgium, Ecolo, has a federal board of 73 people. The German Green party has a Council of the Regions with a minimum of 43 people and the Finish Green party has a Council of 40 people.

Examples from other organisations

We have also researched examples of other organisations with large governance bodies.

Quakers in Britain(covering England Scotland and Wales)

Quakers in Britain have a body of around 80 people that decide and set the direction of the organisation.  It also plays a vital role in fostering communication through a Yearly Meeting and in reviewing and testing concerns referred to it by area meetings and gives guidance on policy issues referred to it.

The 80 members are appointed or selected by various regional groups and other groupings.  As Quakers don’t have elections, this is not directly comparable to the process of electing Council members, as we propose, but there are parallels in that the people responsible for choosing someone to represent them make that choice.

Meetings are well prepared with papers; much of the work is done by small groups (there is a parallel to our Task & Finish Groups) and the larger body receives reports and makes decisions on the basis of that more detailed work done.

Local Authorities working together

In the run-up to austerity, 2008-2011, the Government introduced Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships.  During the 3 years, a Return on Investment of £185million was over £1billion, achieved by local authorities working together better. 

For example, to deliver the East Midlands Climate Change Programme, 46 local authorities worked together to define their priorities and to commission streams of work that delivered their required outcomes.  To do this, a large initial meeting (and subsequent annual meetings) was held during which anyone could sponsor a proposal.  Within the 46 local authorities, a wide range of ideas was put forward, but through discussion it was realised that the outcomes often overlapped. Proposals were then grouped by desired outcome and practical delivery methods were discussed.  This led to a much-reduced list of projects, in which there was enough of a stake for all. This was voted upon and the top 12 projects were taken forward.  Projects were commissioned by a couple of people and smaller groups of local authorities either led or engaged with certain projects and subsequently mentored other authorities to follow their path.  This method of working ensured all 46 were positively engaged and it enhanced relationships across the piece, and eventually to other regions as well.

The key to success was trust and an effective communication strategy.   

Warwick University(https://warwick.ac.uk/services/gov/howgoverned/28 August, 2018)

“The Senate is the supreme academic authority of the University. Whilst the Council is ultimately accountable for the efficient management and good conduct of all aspects of the University’s operation, within that the Senate has responsibility for the academic activities of the University including all aspects of the operations of the University that have a bearing on teaching, research and the welfare, supervision and discipline of students.

The Senate is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and has a full membership of 46 elected from the Faculty Boards and the Assembly. Membership also includes three representatives from the Students’ Union. The Senate meets up to five times each year and the greater part of its business arises from reports from the range of Senate committees responsible for specific academic matters e.g. Academic Quality and Standards Committee, Board of Graduate Studies. The Senate also oversees the work of the four Faculty Boards as well as the Research Centres and Institutes.”.

Purpose of Council and how Meetings Could be Effective

The purpose of Council is non-executive.  Its role is to make broad decisions about what needs to be done and who should do it.  It will therefore commission Task and Finish Groups to do the detailed work; receive reports from them and make decisions about their recommendations/proposals.

In taking the pulse of the party, in making sure that all parts of the party are broadly headed in the right direction, it is important for Council to listen (more than to speak), to hear what the membership, the Task & Finish Groups, the accredited groups, Wales, the Regions, Young Greens and elected Councillors are saying and to ensure that the party as a whole is able to respond to that flexibly and effectively. This will ensure that all of us, when we engage with the wider world (the public, Council, other elected bodies and so on) can be relevant and convincing.

Many committees and councils struggle to be quorate, especially when they are staffed by volunteers.  Having a larger body ensures that there is a breadth of knowledge and experience of the Green Party at each meeting, even if some Council members aren’t available on the day.


3 Comments

nicole haydock · August 31, 2018 at 11:58 am

I can understand people worrying about this proposed 45 strong Council. It is radical , but we simply cannot function as a party with the miriad of existing bodies, each pulling in different directions and more often than not, in competition with each other.

As GPRC representative for the NW for 4 years, it took me a whole year to even begin to understand how things worked and it really is in the last year of a very active mandate that I came to the conclusion that GPRC was not fit for purpose.

I did not hold any chair or co-chair position during those 4 years, but from the regular reports we were getting from them, it sounded as if GPEX in particular was very weak and at times quite unmanageable.

On a number of occasions, I was called upon to carry out a few complaints related investigations. Those gave me quite a good insight into some lesser known aspects of the way the party is run – or as the case may be – how badly things can go when there is no accountability mechanism or when you have highly disruptive behaviours allowed to continue unchecked.

I was directly involved in reviewing the then complaint procedure which was not fit for purpose . Whilst it seemed the new SOs worked well for a couple of years, as soon as we lost the dedicated Admin Officer for the job, it all went wrong again.

A lack of attention to agreed procedure followed by new and ill-thought out changes to the SOs resulted in such a mess as to demand that the whole procedure be radically reformed all over again ! So I am very pleased to see that the HRC has addressed this very important aspects of the way our Party functions and come up with a new and two tier approach functioning separately from the Council.

Finally , what I think is very positive with this idea of a 45 strong COuncil is that whilst regions retain a majority on it, the Association of Councillors is firmly represented on it too as are all our formally recognised designated group and the Young Greens. The additional 10 members elected directly from the membership will hopefully also provide a firmer grounding with the membership. One would hope that amongst those, members who are not attached to a lcoal party would see this as an opportunity to get involved.

Paul Woodhead · August 31, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Thank you that is a really useful insight in to your research and helps put in to context the reasoning behind the recommendation.

As a National Leader of Governance in Schools I can see a great challenge to how the Council is led in its purpose as a listening forum full of active campaigners more used to talking. The remit of work of the Task and Finish Groups and common trust across all Council members in the work of colleagues which would stimulate positive debate rather than continuous opinion.

I still remain concerned about the distribution of council members within the body as a whole and would prefer, and support, a model of elected regional representation and national elected representation and no groups with their own representatives

Martin Childs · September 19, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Why is there no provision for trade union liaison? Surely our working life should be considered. Questions have been raised about this on the website, by me, and never a response. Although I am broadly in favour of the HR proposals, I feel I may have to vote against them because of this. We have at present a TULO on the executive but the HR proposals could have had at least a position on the council allocated for this. But there is nothing at all.

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