Braintree Constituency Conservative Association
Constituency Report 2017
2017 was a year which tested the stamina of Conservative activists in the Braintree Association, as it probably did throughout the country. However the outcome at local level was one that we can take pride in; whilst the results of the county council elections were not unexpected in terms of seats held, the size of our majorities at both county and general elections were pleasantly greater than we might have wished.
The Association has settled into its new office at The Lakes Innovation Centre in Braintree and is running smoothly from there, with it being manned for two days per week. Whilst it took longer than anticipated, the sale proceeds from Avenue Lodge in Witham have been invested in two secure and profitable funds by the trustees. Our governance has been strengthened by one addition to the Executive Council and we propose to examine further increases in 2018.
Membership. The number of members in the Association fell back from the level reached a year earlier, but remained well above the number at the end of 2015. We had 244 members at the end of 2017, a 14% reduction from 2016, but 25% more than we closed 2015 with. It is clear that electors were not frightened enough by the thought of a Corbyn-led, neo-Marxist government to join our ranks; hopefully the light might dawn on them before 2022! This proves though that we need to do more to involve members, not just by an increased social programme, but by greater involvement in the decisions of the Association. We will see a significant attempt to do this when we hold ward meetings in 2018 to select our candidates for the next district council elections.
Branches. Between them our two branches covering Halstead and Hedingham members raised just over £1000 from social events in 2017. The role of branches within the Party is changing, with electoral wards and divisions featuring more strongly in constituency rules, which is good for democracy.
Executive Council. We have further increased the size of the EC by asking George Courtauld to join us, with special responsibility for fundraising. Just to remind readers, we now base EC membership on the county electoral divisions so that every county division, whether wholly or partly in the constituency, will have either an elected or co-opted representative. I believe we should look to enhance this principle when we next change the constituency boundary and rewrite our rules based on changes recommended to the National Convention. A full list of names of current members of the EC and trustees is shown below.
Trust Fund. After tax and various sales, legal and removals costs, we ended up with £232,000 to invest from the sale of Avenue Lodge, Witham. This has been split between two funds used by BDC, the M&G Global Dividend Fund and the M&G Income Distribution Fund. It is too early to report on the performance of these funds, but dividends are being received which will be transferred to the Association by agreement between the Trustees and the Officers of the Association. Other than by fundraising and donations by our members, this is now the only source of income the Association has.
Campaigning and Political Activity. Not many of us will forget the elections of 2017, mainly because they weren’t run concurrently, thereby stretching the goodwill of all our activists. The County Council elections saw the collapse of UKIP, so our five candidates romped home, all getting shares of over 50% of the vote and with swings between 15-23%. Both our council leaders, David Finch and Graham Butland, topped the poll with vote shares of 65% and 63% respectively. In Braintree Town, Wendy Schmitt increased our majority from 31 to 855.
The June General Election took us all by surprise but, no matter what the national picture, we were hugely successful in Braintree. In only his second election, James Cleverly won 63% of the vote and increased his majority to 18,422, which was the highest ever achieved by a winning candidate in the Braintree constituency. Both our campaigns were greatly assisted by Tom Cunningham agreeing to act as our agent. Outside of election times, James is working his way round the newer parts of the constituency with groups of active members to improve our data on supporters for future elections. At the end of the year we started a local Policy Forum to discuss and debate key political issues. Iona Parker has taken the initiative on this and is feeding our views to national level, where they are passed on to cabinet members. The first meetings, held in local pubs, have been well attended and are open to members and supporters.
Social Activities & Fundraising. During the year we held two formal dinners. At the first one Jacob Rees-Mogg proved to be an entertaining speaker. At the second we were fortunate to have Brandon Lewis who is now Party Chairman. These two functions raised over £8000 for the Association. Further funds were raised at a garden party hosted by Robert & Sara Erith and at a wine tasting evening run by the Halstead Branch. The 999 Club raffle is being relaunched under Lyn Walters chairmanship and currently has 25 members. Several high-profile events are already planned for 2018.
Office Administration. Karen Skinner, our office manager, continues to run the office with commendable efficiency. We are fully committed to interfacing with the new(ish) Vote Source system and will be getting to grips with Central Membership administration in 2018. I would particularly like to thank her and our two Deputy Chairmen, Wendy Schmitt and Philip Rawlinson, for their unfailing support during the year, as well as the members of the Executive Council and our trustees.
Nigel McCrea, BCCA Chairman, 16th March 2018.
BCCA EXECUTIVE COUNCIL 2018 (Voting Members only)
Qualification (subject to AGM changes)
Deputy Chairman - Political
Deputy Chairman - Membership & Fundraising
Treasurer & Leader Essex County Council
Leader Braintree District Council
Elected Representative Hedingham Branch
Elected Representative Halstead Branch
Co-opted Representative Bocking Members
Co-opted Representative Braintree Town Members
Co-opted Representative Braintree Eastern Members
Co-opted Representative Three Fields with Great Notley Members
Co-opted Representative BCCA Trustees
Co-opted Member for Fundraising
Any of the above can be contacted by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org