There are three or more key posts that should be filled for a branch or Party Council to operate effectively – Chair, Secretary (or Convenor), Treasurer (or a Secretary/Treasurer).

These office holders form a core team that helps the party work effectively, and are the basis of the Party Council (or branch) Executive, should it have one. These officers should work together to create an annual development plan that ensures the party or branch is a dynamic and campaigning force in the Labour and co-operative movements and wider community. The party council officers also play a key role in liaising with the local branches and their officers.

It is possible to change the names of these posts, or to redefine what they do.  For example, the Chair need not chair all the meetings.  The Secretary may not be the one who takes the notes of the meetings.  Both tasks can be shared with other members or rotated.

There will be many other roles that can assist the party’s development e.g. membership officer, assistant secretary, campaigns officer, education officer, co-operative liaison Officer, youth officer, equality officer.  You should also bring other people into the branch or Party Council team for specific tasks or campaigns to make the best use of the skills and enthusiasm of the members – there doesn’t need to be a previous job title or vacancy to do this.

Importantly, do ensure that you have a succession plan for key roles and that you include and engage as many members as you can in the work and the decisions of the branch and party.  Whilst experience is valuable, it isn’t sustainable for a branch or party council to be reliant on the same two or three individuals over a long period of time.

Branch Secretary – duties

The branch secretary has a key role to play in supporting the chair in the leadership of the party. S/he will usually be the person who:

  • Convenes meetings and circulate the agenda
  • Ensures that actions decided are followed through
  • (with the other officers) drafts the annual development plan
  • Liaises with the Party Council on campaigns and activity
  • Liaises with local CLPs on delegates and selections, if delegated to do so by the Party Council
  • Co-ordinates local campaigns and activity
  • Ensures that Branch complies with the Party’s rules and procedures are followed on recruitment, selections, discipline, conduct of meetings etc, and informs the Party Council of any issues relating to that – see Rule Book

Your key sources of information will be the monthly Officer Support Mailing, which will remind you of forthcoming tasks and deadlines, and the Rule Book.  For anything that is not in the Officer Support Handbook or Mailings or Rule Book or that you don’t understand, the Party Support Team are here to help.  Your Party Council Secretary should also be able to advise

The secretary should ensure the branch is:

  • Working to the development plan (if you have one) and maintaining a full programme of activities and campaigns in line with the Party’s priorities
  • Welcoming and engaging new members
  • Drafting and implementing an annual development plan to promote the Party’s policies and campaigns and recruit members.
  • Working with the Party Council to nominate delegates to CLPs and submit motions, influencing local Labour policy and recruiting members to the Co-operative Party.
  • Seeking and supporting co-operators to stand for elected office and (together with the Party Council) managing parliamentary and councillor selections in the area in accordance with the rule book.
  • Working closely with local Labour and Co-operative MPs, councillors, MSPs or AMs or candidates
  • Working closely with local Co-operative Societies and other co-ops and mutuals in the area.

When preparing for meetings the branch secretary should:

  • Plan the agenda with the chair, checking anything from the Officer Support Mailing, previous actions agreed and the development or campaign plan that should be included.
  • Ensure that each meeting has a clear purpose e.g. to plan or develop a local campaign or to discuss policy or to hear from a speaker from the co-operative movement locally.
  • Ensure that all meetings are interesting and engaging – keep any process items to a minimum and to the end
  • Circulate the agenda to all members
  • Prepare for the executive committee, where a Branch has one

Following meetings the Branch secretary should:

  • Produce concise action orientated minutes
  • Communicate relevant items to members and the Party Council

Useful to note

Head Office issues a lot of e-mails to members, and especially to officers. The monthly Officer Support Mailing (OSM) is intended to consolidate these, highlighting important information you may have missed and drawing attention to tasks and deadlines.  Please check the OSM before each Branch meeting.