Big changes at Great George Street
By Mark Pack
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats
I'd commented before that Liberal Democrat Chief Executive Tim Gordon has make a good impression since starting the job, but that judgments wouldn't mean much until his first big, difficult decision. Well, he can now be judged as this week he unveiled a major restructuring of the staffing at the party's Great George Street HQ.
This is not one of those cases where cuts are dressed up as a restructure, for overall staffing costs will stay roughly the same. Instead it is an attempt to make more out of what there is.
There will now be five directorates:
- Elections and Field (strategic seats, member and supporter development, candidates, diversity and training, call centre), headed by Hilary Stephenson, also newly promoted to Deputy Chief Executive
- Political Communication (media, internal communications, ground communications, strategic research, policy and international), headed up by Tim Snowball
- Commercial (fundraising and conferences), headed up by Tim Gordon himself
- Finance and Operations (finance, payroll, HR, compliance, HQ admin), headed up by Nigel Bliss
- Digital (digital campaigns, the Connect database, digital infrastructure, digital content, data), for which the party is recruiting externally to find a head.
All the directorate heads in place so far are therefore also all people who were already senior managers at HQ. The structure beneath them is however very different.
The old Campaigns Department, more recently Elections and Skills, has in effect been split into two, as has the old Membership Services team. Parts of both are together in the new Elections and Field team - a logical move as membership and local campaigning infrastructure are so closely inter-related.
Meanwhile, another part of the old Campaigns Department is now in with the media team in the Political Communication directorate. It's been a long-standing complaint and worry that the party's messaging is not consistent enough, so again there is a clear logic to bringing together those who deal with journalists and those who deal with letterboxes.
The risk, of course, is that without one joined-up membership team and without one joined-up target seats team, a different sets of divisions and lack of co-ordination rise up to take the place of the old problems. That the party is now in one modern, open-plan office makes that much less likely than the very bitty building spread over several floors and with many small rooms in which I used to work when at party HQ. The real test will be how the staff take to the structure and so far the mood music from staff at HQ is positive.
Notable amongst those taking the chance of the restructure to look for a change in career rather than go for one of the new posts is David Loxton, long-standing head of the party's membership operations and an often unsung hero who led the turnaround of the membership team. He also oversaw a long overdue modernisation of the party's membership IT from a database that was based on a system to track American helicopter spare parts during the Vietnam war to a rather more modern one.