Our Constitution

The Social Liberal Forum instituted itself as a membership organisation on 10 March 2010. Our full constitution and election regulations can be found below.

Social Liberal Forum Constitution

Approved 10 March 2010
1. Purpose
A part of the Liberal Democrat family, the Social Liberal Forum supports the principles laid out in the preamble of the constitution of the UK Liberal Democrats.

More specifically, the Social Liberal Forum exists to foster debate within and beyond the Liberal Democrats with the aim of developing policies based on social liberal principles (as ‘social liberalism’ is broadly understood within the traditions of the Liberal Democrats), and securing popular support for those policies.
2. Name and Objects
2.1. Name
The name of the organisation shall be “Social Liberal Forum”.
2.2. Objects
The Organisation exists to:
a) achieve the aims set out in the Purpose of this constitution, through policy development, research, fostering debate and campaigning.
b) develop a network of active individuals and groups to campaign for our aims.
c) build constructive relationships with organisations and individuals who share some or all of our goals.
2.3. Equality of Opportunity
The Organisation supports the principle of equal opportunities in all areas of its work and opposes all forms of unlawful or unfair discrimination on any grounds. All individuals shall be treated with respect and courtesy by the Organisation and its officers.
3. Membership
3.1. Joining the organisation
Membership is open to all Liberal Democrat members who support the purpose of the Organisation and abide by the constitution. The Organisation shall maintain a record of current members.
3.2. Rights of members
3.2.1. All members shall have the following rights within the Organisation:
a) To attend and vote at all General Meetings, including the right to vote by proxy on motions if they request it;
b) To attend Council meetings, unless the Council chooses to enter closed business.
c) To submit or second motions and constitutional amendments;
d) To elect and stand in elections to the Council;
e) To petition the Council on a matter relevant to the objectives of the Organisation, and to receive a written reply;
f) To have access to the Organisation’s constitution, standing orders and accounts.

3.2.2. The Organisation shall primarily communicate to its members through use of email and the internet. Members who wish to receive paper based communications by post shall be required to pay an annual subscription fee determined by the Council.
3.3. Leaving the organisation
Any individual who ceases to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, dies or resigns from the Organisation shall automatically be deemed to no longer be a member of the Organisation.
4. The Council
4.1. Role of the council
4.1.1. The Council shall be responsible for the overall strategy of the Organisation. It shall meet at least two times a year.

4.1.2. The Council shall:
a) consider resolutions agreed at each General Meeting;
b) develop the strategic direction of the organisation;
c) agree the Organisation’s priorities;
d) agree the Organisation’s budget;

4.1.3. The Council shall appoint its own Chair from amongst its number. The Chair shall also be assumed to be the Chair of General Meetings for the purpose of this constitution although they shall be permitted to delegate this role to another individual if they so wish. No individual shall serve more than two consecutive terms as Chair.

4.1.4. The Council shall appoint a Director who shall be responsible for executing the work of the Organisation. The Director may appoint one or more deputies to assist in this work, subject to approval by the Chair.

4.1.6. The Council shall appoint the Returning Officer who shall preside over all elections and ballots conducted on behalf of the Organisation. The Returning Officer may not be a candidate in elections, or a member of the Council.

4.1.7. The Council shall establish its own Standing Orders, including a Code of Conduct by which its members, the Director and his or her deputies must abide.

4.1.7. The Council may appoint an Honorary President and one or more Honorary Vice Presidents. Honorary Officers must agree with the Purpose and objectives of the Organisation, although they are not required to be members. Their term of office will run from when they have been appointed to the election of a new Council.

4.1.8. The Council may determine rules for the establishment and recognition of sub-groupings if this is deemed appropriate.

4.2. Composition of the council

4.2.1. The Council shall consist of up to twenty members elected every two years by all member ballot using the Single Transferable Voting system.

4.2.2. The precise number of candidates to be elected shall be equal to three quarters of the number of candidates nominated (rounded up to the nearest whole number) or twenty, whichever is the lower.

4.1.8. Any Council Member who fails to attend two consecutive Council meetings shall be deemed to have resigned, unless they have provided a satisfactory explanation. The Chair shall write to any Council Member who fails to attend one meeting, informing them of this rule.

4.2.4. Casual vacancies shall not be filled.

5. General Meetings
5.1. Rules pertaining to General Meetings

5.1.1. There shall be an Annual General Meeting each calendar year.

5.1.2. The Annual General Meeting shall;

a) Receive an annual report from the Director.

b) Consider and approve the annual accounts.

5.1.4. The following notice requirements shall apply to each general meeting:

a) There shall be 42 days notice of each meeting sent to all members. This will include an invitation for motions to be submitted.

b) Members wishing to submit a motion to the general meeting shall give 28 days notice of the wording of the motion to the Director.

c) There shall be 14 days notice of all valid motions sent to members who have requested notice of them, and/or have indicated that they intend to come to the meeting.

5.1.5. Motions to a general meeting will be valid if:

a) Submitted within the relevant deadline;

b) Proposed by a member and seconded by one other member;

c) Relevant to the pursuit of the objectives laid out in Section 2.

5.1.6. Emergency Motions may be submitted on issues that have arisen since the deadline, which could not have been brought within the prescribed timetable for ordinary motions. Emergency motions must be submitted to the Chair at least 48 hours before the meeting.

5.1.7. If the number of motions exceeds the time available for discussion the Chair will select motions for debate, subject to a vote at the beginning of the general meeting to approve the agenda.

5.1.8. The Council shall report on outcomes of resolutions at the next annual general meeting. If any resolution has been rejected, either in part or in whole, by the Council, the general meeting may call for the matter to be referred to a binding all member ballot, subject to a motion being passed to this effect by a two-thirds majority of those voting at the general meeting.

5.1.9. Motions shall be voted on a ‘one member, one vote’ basis.

5.1.10. Motions shall be passed by a simple majority of those voting. At least 10 members must vote in favour of a motion for it to be considered binding.

5.1.11. General meetings will be conducted subject to Standing Orders.

5.1.12. The Council or Director may invite any person to attend a General meeting, or any part of a meeting, as an observer. This will be announced to the meeting.

5.2. Extraordinary General Meetings
5.2.1. An Extraordinary General Meeting may be requisitioned by

a) the Council, or

b) 5% of members or 20 members, whichever is the higher.

5.2.2. The requisition must state the business to be discussed

5.2.3. There shall be at least 28 days and no more than 56 days between the receipt of the requisition and the date of the meeting

5.2.4. Members shall be given at least 21 days notice of the date of the meeting including the business or motion to be discussed.

5.2.5. Clauses 5.1.9. through to 5.1.12 shall also apply to Extraordinary General Meetings.
6. Rules for changing the constitution
6.1. With the exception of the Section 1, Section 2 and Section 6, this constitution, including its appendices, may be amended by a motion requiring a two-thirds majority of those voting at a general meeting.

6.2. Section 1, Section 2 and Section 6 may be amended by an all-member ballot requiring a majority of those voting. Such a ballot may only be triggered by a motion proposing the change being passed by a two-thirds majority of those voting at a general meeting.

6.3. Proposals for a major change to the constitution which affects the Organisation’s nature and purpose, including a proposal for dissolution, may not be made save that if a motion is passed by an all-member ballot requiring a two-thirds majority of those voting. Such a ballot may only be triggered by a motion proposing the change being passed by a two-thirds majority of those voting at a general meeting.

A. Elections
1. General

1.1. The Returning Officer appointed by the Council under clause 4.1.6 of the Constitution will be responsible for the conduct of elections, and for certifying the election results.

1.2. Members shall self-nominate in order to stand for elections to Council.

1.3. The Returning Officer’s rulings on all matters relating to the running of elections shall be final.
2. Elections to the Council

2.1. All members shall be notified of the opening of nominations at least 42 days in advance. The notice will include schedule of dates for the election:

a) the date for nominations to be received;

b) the approximate date by which the voting papers will be posted out, the close of poll and the day on which the voting papers shall be counted;

c) the date of the first meeting of the new Council, determined in agreement with the existing Chair of Council;

d) a written summary of the election rules, approved by the Returning Officer;

e) a nomination form.

2.2. The nomination form shall include space for candidates to include their name, address, phone number, email address, other relevant contact details, signature and election address. The form shall also include space for them to declare that they are willing to stand in this election and abide by its rules.

An electronic version of this form may be included on the Organisation’s website.

2.3. The election address must consist of a written statement of up to 200 words setting out why the candidate wishes to stand and up to 100 words giving biographical details. Election addresses shall not criticise, attack or defame any individual. The Returning Officer shall have the final say on the content of all election addresses. No further promotional materials may be produced, and the Returning Officer shall not provide access to memberships lists or other resources for election campaigning purposes.

2.4. Members shall not be compelled to use the official nomination form to stand. To be eligible, nominations must be signed by the candidate and returned to the Returning Officer before the close of nomination. Nominations by email shall be deemed acceptable.

2.5. Voting papers, a copy of the candidates’ election statements, a freepost envelope and notification of the close of poll shall be sent to all members within 21 days of the close of nominations.

2.6. The date for close of poll shall be set no less than 14 days after the voting papers have been sent to all members.

2.7. All candidates shall be given at least 14 days notice of the date and location of the count. They, or an individual they specifically nominate who has been agreed by the Returning Officer, shall be entitled to observe the count.

2.8. The Returning Officer shall take reasonable steps to inform all candidates whether or not they have been successfully elected before the results may be publicly declared. The Organisation shall take reasonable steps to circulate the results widely.

2.9. The Returning Officer shall make a report to the following Council, including any rulings they were required to make in the course of the election.
3. The Count

3.1. Elections to the Council and multi-option ballots shall be conducted according to the rules set out in the latest edition of “How to conduct an election by the Single Transferable Vote”, published by the Electoral Reform Society.
4. Conduct of candidates and appeals

3.1. Any candidate who makes a statement on their nomination or election statement which they know to be false shall be disqualified.

3.2. Any candidate may appeal against any ruling by the Returning Officer which has a direct impact on their candidacy, including the validity of the result itself, within 24 hours of being informed of the decision. In such circumstances, the Returning Officer shall refer the matter to a disinterested and independent arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision shall be final.
B: Standing orders for General Meetings
1. The Role of the Chair
1.1. The Chair of Council shall chair the meetings, or make arrangements for the chairing. They shall be responsible for arranging the agenda in accordance with the rules laid out in the Constitution and for determining the validity of motions and constitutional amendments.
2. Voting
2.1. Where the vote is clear, the Chair may decide not to count votes. However, if five members present indicate they wish the votes to be counted, the votes shall be counted and the result shall be recorded.

2.2. The Chair will make arrangements with the Director for the telling of votes.
3. Rules of debate
3.1. The Chair will ascertain that the motion or constitutional amendment to be moved has a proposer (usually the person who has submitted the motion or constitutional amendment) and a seconder present at the meeting, or if proposed by a Group or Devolved Organisation, that a representative of that organisational unit is present to speak to it.

3.2. The Chair will indicate the maximum length of speakers’ times at the beginning of the debate.

3.3. The Chair will seek to ensure a balanced debate

3.4. Amendments to the proposal may be moved and seconded, debated and voted on. If accepted, the amended proposal becomes the substantive proposal. Amendments shall not be in order if they abnegate the proposal.

3.5. At the end of the debate, the proposer may exercise a right of reply, dealing only with matters that have arisen in the debate. The vote will be taken immediately after the right of reply has been exercised
The proposer may choose to exercise his or her right of reply on an amendment, in which case they will have no right of reply on the substantive proposal
4. Challenges to the Chair’s ruling
4.1. The Chair will determine all procedural matters that arise before the meeting. During the meeting, procedural matters will be determined by the person who is chairing at the time the issue is raised.

4.2. A member may ask the Chair for a ruling on a procedural matter. Such rulings shall be challenged if five members indicate dissent by holding their voting cards in the air while seated. If challenged, another member of Council shall take the chair until the challenge is resolved.

4.3. There shall be one speech in support of the challenge, one speech against the challenge, and the Chair may make a statement. The challenge shall immediately be put to the vote, with only members present voting. The Chair shall then resume his or her position.