Disability Labour AGM 2020.
Disability Equality Act Labour (DEAL) was set up in 2017 because Disability Labour (DL) members were unhappy with the way DL was managed. Now, if anything, we are more concerned than ever before.
The Executive members that we campaigned for at the last AGM in 2018 (see our 2018 AGM pages here), have broken all the promises they made to us.
The Disability Labour AGM 2020 takes place on 8 March. It is exclusively online. Members have to have updated their details in January in order to attend. We have fundamental concerns with this AGM, and with Disability Labour.
5 March 2020 update.
We have been asked about evidence for the statements we have made below. We’ve now stated what that evidence is and, where evidence isn’t already available to Disability Labour members, or isn’t included in the links on this page, we will be happy to make it public should Disability Labour members request that.
The Executive refused to devise a fundraising strategy despite agreeing to lose the only regular income they had. Evidence: non existence of a fundraising strategy.
They went on a spending spree for merchandising. Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole.
They claimed a large amount for expenses. Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole.
They failed to implement members wishes to recoup £2,500 from The Fabian Society (see the motion agreed at the 2018 AGM here). One of the banned members had been informing the negotiation to get this money back before they were thrown out. Following that, Simon Lydiard, current Secretary of DL now standing for a Co-Vice chair position, took on the negotiation together with Co-Chair Fran Springfield. Simon is a member of The Fabian Society and we feel he should have excused himself from the negotiation as he had a conflict of interest. Simon agreed The Fabian Society would not repay the £2,500, but would provide advertising and promotion services to that amount instead. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
5 March 2020 update. Simon Lydiard contacted us and as a result we have made the following corrections to the previous paragraph: 1. We had stated the sum involved was £2,000, in fact it was £2,500. 2. Simon led on the negotiations between Disability Labour and The Fabian Society, and Fran Springfield (who is not a member of The Fabian Society) worked on it too. 3. We have replaced the word, ‘recoup’ with the word, ‘repay’.
They have spent money on items that could have been provided free. Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole.
They went on a residential weekend paid for out of members money (yet they will not allow members to meet face to face with them). Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole and Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
They have spent over 50% of the funds they started with (£9050 – or £11,050 if the money from The Fabian Society is included), leaving DL with just £3,625 left in the bank. Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole.
One of the banned three was tasked with setting up the new website and members database. To do this, she wrote a draft Data Protection Policy (see here), and a Privacy Statement (see here) which was a contractual letter all Executive members signed.
The Chair and an Executive member decided to take over running the Disability Officers Forum on Facebook. As part of that they decided to set up a DOs database in breach of the DL Data Protection Policy. Evidence: The Disability Officers Forum Facebook Group.
The Chair asked the same banned member to download a copy of the DL membership database and email it to her, again in breach of the Data Protection Policy. The banned member asked the Chair if she was sure she wanted to breach the Policy and the Chair stated she was happy with that. Evidence: Facebook messenger conversation screenshot.
When the new Executive took office, the banned three were all keen to get systems in place to ensure Disability Labour would be managed well, and be accountable to members. These included a GDPR policy, Privacy Statement, use of Slack for teamworking, working groups of members to work on specific issues and projects, key organisational policies, a fundraising and income generation policy, a decision making grid to enable the executive to take decisions openly and online, an invoicing system to enable online sales and fee payments, getting members data from the previous Executive and the Labour Party, cleaning the members data, designing a contacts management database, using Mailchimp until the final database platform was agreed, and mixed physical and online meetings to ensure everyone would be able to participate in the best way for each one. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes and Online decision making grid.
Most of these never happened. Of those that did, when the banned members were thrown out, so were the systems they set up. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
Meetings were held online only. This excluded some Executive members who found online meetings impossible. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
Some officers started ‘meeting’ online without others. This meant the decision making process was secretive and exclusive. Evidence: Facebook messenger group ‘The Three Chairs’, comprising Fran Springfield, Kathy Bole and Wayne Blackburn.
Some officers started working on projects that were never agreed by the Executive. Evidence: email correspondence.
There were no checks on spending, there was no discussion about fundraising and income generation other than a rush to buy merchandise with no thought for budgeting. Evidence: the financial statement by Kathy Bole and Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
A ‘Safeguarding’ policy was written by the chair. This enabled the Executive to pick off people with neurological or behavioural conditions as their behaviours were now considered unacceptable. Evidence: email correspondence.
The members database was managed by one of the banned members. She spent a great deal of time getting members data from the previous Executive and the Labour Party, cleaning it, developing a database design and uploading everything the Mailchimp. After she handed members data to DL, the database was not properly managed. DL changed the membership number system as a result many members were excluded from the database and did not receive mailings or invitations to meetings. As a result of the changes DL introduced, they required members to complete an additional form. Many members missed this and were excluded. DL decided to introduce a freeze date, members who had not joined in their timeframe were excluded. Evidence: emails from Disability Labour sent by Mailchimp and complaints from members.
Some officers went on Mental Health First Aid training with a questionable organisation. Though they paid for this themselves, they started providing Mental Health First Aid (again a questionable thing) at conference and training others to do so. This opened the door for Disability Labour to become a health service provider rather than a voice for policy and practice change within the Party and the country. This blurs the line between the medical and social models of disability. Members have never been given the opportunity to debate this. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
A great deal of time was spent writing very long, bullying, recorded delivery letters to two of the three banned members. These letters contained appalling allegations that were not true. As time went on, more allegations were made, again untrue. The banned members have become scapegoats for anything that goes awry at Disability Labour, even after they left. Disciplinary matters became almost an obsession for the Executive. Evidence: correspondence from Simon Lydiard and Lorraine Harding.
Minutes of Executive meetings contained lengthy redacted sections. The Executive took legitimate reasons for privacy and turned them into an obsession with secrecy. At least one of the banned members continually waived her right to privacy as she wanted members to know everything that was happening. This was never allowed and redactions continued. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
There is no arrangement for freezing the date by which members must join before attending an AGM or GM. (L.3.) Individual Members and Individual Supporters shall be entitled to attend the meeting and have speaking rights. Evidence: the DL constitution.
Nominations for the executive have always been made at the meeting as well as in advance. The current Executive has changed the interpretation of the constitution on this. (L.6.) Nominations for election to the Executive Committee must be made by individual members of the group, or affiliates, at the meeting or in advance. Evidence: the DL constitution and previous AGM minutes.
It is unclear whether subscription rates will be discussed at the AGM, or whether an auditor or external examiner will be appointed. (L.8.) The business of the AGM shall include:
- Fixing subscription rates.
- Appointment of Auditors/External Examiners.
- Constitutional changes.
- Appointment of Executive Committee Members.
- And any other legal/statutory business determined by the Executive Committee.
Evidence: the DL constitution.
Members have been given no option other than to receive notices by email. This has resulted in emails not being sent to inboxes. (O.1.) Where this Constitution requires a notice to be sent to a member, it shall be sent to him or her in writing or such other format media as the member shall specify. It shall ordinarily be sent by letter post or conveyed by hand. It may be sent by facsimile transmission, electronic mail or some other means if the member agrees.(2) In the case of post it shall be deemed received three (3) days after the date of posting. In all other cases the date of transmission shall be treated as the date of receipt. Evidence: the DL constitution.
The Executive has banned three DL members who were also on the Executive. Spurious allegations were made against the three, and the Executive has continued making new allegations and repeating the original ones to this day. Evidence: Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes, Facebook group and correspondence with the banned three.
The three feel they were thrown out because they pressed the other Executive members to keep their promise to members to be transparent, accountable, democratic, participative and inclusive. Evidence: correspondence between Co-chair Wayne Blackburn and the banned three.
The three banned members have been refused any meaningful right of appeal. For this AGM they were told they could submit a 1,500 word written appeal; their appeals would be edited by the Executive before being put to members; and they had to include a statement saying they would end any legal action against the Executive. The banned three are not allowed to attend the AGM. Evidence: emails from the Disability Labour Executive to the banned three.
Censoring members and reducing democracy.
Officers on the Executive regularly censor members who question anything from the DL Facebook page. They delete posts and exclude people for various periods of time. Evidence: complaints and screenshots by members.
The Executive have excluded many members because of totally unnecessary changes they decided to make to their database. Evidence: emails from Dave Townsend to DL members and complaints by DL members.
The three banned Executive members have had no right of reply; no suitable appeal process; and are excluded from the AGM. Evidence: email from Disability Labour to the banned three.
The proposed constitution was not drafted in a participative or inclusive way, it was drafted by one person who clearly doesn’t have the knowledge of voluntary organisations required to do this. There has been no agreement by Exec members prior to putting it to a members vote The sheer length and complexity of the proposed constitution makes it exclusive. Evidence: the proposed constitution, DEAL statement on the proposed constitution and Disability Labour Executive meeting minutes.
It has been drafted appallingly and no appropriate independent advice can have been sought. Evidence: the proposed constitution and DEAL statement on the proposed constitution.
The special GM to ratify the proposed new constitution was held online only – this does not take the variety of impairments members have into account. Evidence: the notice for the special general meeting.
Members were required to vote by open verbal statement at the meeting. This is contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy which require a secret ballot. Evidence: complaints by members who attended the meeting.
The meeting agrees that the AGM organisation has not been to a satisfactory standard.
This Meeting agrees that a fresh AGM shall be properly convened within 6 months.
There will be no freeze date and any member shall be allowed to attend the AGM and vote in the elections.
Arrangements shall be supervised by a panel of three people none of whom will be a member of the executive, a candidate for the executive or intend to seek election to the executive prior to the AGM
The reconvened AGM will take place physically with an option for members who cannot attend a physical meeting to attend online.
The EC shall be elected on the day using properly secure balloting software.
2. Executive elections.
Over the last 18 months it has become increasingly apparent that the current Executive of Disability Labour has been completely dismissive of comment or criticism by members and fellow Executive Committee members. This has been made worse by Officers obsessive focus on censoring and banning members, and their complete failure to keep the commitments to inclusion, participation, transparency and accountability they made when they were originally elected as DEAL members.
- We believe the Executive has misled members, consistently mismanaged Disability Labour,
- mismanaged our funds whilst having no informed fundraising strategy,
- ignored motions agreed at the last AGM,
- introduced rules not in keeping with our current constitution,
- attempted to take control of Disability Labour away from the membership by introducing an unnecessarily complicated and poorly drafted constitution,
- shown a total inability to run secret ballots,
- inappropriately turned Disability Labour into a health service provider,
- disregarded their own GDPR policy and Privacy Statement putting members personal data at risk, and
- introduced policies and practices that discriminate against autistic people and people with behavioural conditions.
In light of our massively disappointing experience with the previous and current Executive, we believe the model of a voluntary organisation, affiliated to the Labour Party does not work for disabled members.
We move that Disability Labour be dissolved immediately, that we work with Disability Equality Act Labour to ensure the proposals in the Democracy Review and the guidance in the legal handbook ‘The Equality Act 2010 (disability) and the Labour Party become party policy at the earliest opportunity.
We further move that all assets of Disability Labour be transferred to Disability Equality Act Labour. This includes, but is not limited to, the bank accounts and database.
[Please note: we will add a page on the DEAL website about the Democracy Review and disabled members proposals tomorrow, Wednesday 4 March. It should be online by 6pm at http://disabilityequalityactlabour.org/dr]
Disability Labour is an unincorporated association. This means all Executive members are personally liable for any loss, debts or costs resulting from legal actions. One legal action is due to conclude shortly, further legal actions are likely.
Those elected will take on responsibility for managing a national voluntary organisation. It’s vital they have the appropriate organisational skills to do this. We recommend members read the biographies below carefully, looking for skills, experience and ability to manage voluntary organisations, before considering any political skills candidates may have.
Members could take it as read each candidate has expertise by experience as a disabled person. We recommend members look for statements from candidates that show they fully endorse the social model of disability and the DEAL legal handbook.
DEAL believes that the officers of the executive have acted incompetently and in a vexatious and bullying manner. We recommend that with the exception of DEAL members, none of the existing executive should be re-elected.