Over one hundred days since the LUSU AGM commenced, it eventually finished this evening. Since it began, two sabbs have resigned over LUSU's 'toxic workplace culture', whilst another two have been re-elected to serve a second term.
Students who attended tonight's AGM with the expectation of being finally able to hold their elected representatives to account will be disappointed. Of the five current sabbs, four have chosen to blatantly ignore LUSU policy, failing to provide the AGM with a breakdown of how they have spent their budgets. The lack of basic transparency surrounding the officers' budgets is especially concerning, as the overall officer budget has soared by almost £15,000 since LUSU's anti-democratic 'reforms' four years ago.
In the first part of the AGM in October, former sabb Hannah Prydderch's motion on 'Increased Student Input in Lancaster University Students’ Union Spending' included the provision that at AGMs, 'officers would be required to provide a breakdown of how they spent their budgets for scrutiny by the student body.' This proposal for increased financial transparency passed overwhelmingly, with more than 1,000 students voting for it.
Ms Prydderch resigned on Friday. In a statement published today, she claimed: 'I was treated as an inferior Officer from the moment I arrived, with my work hampered and my achievements disregarded ... I frequently felt ganged up on and brow-beaten into being silent.' She had previously gone to resign in October, just three months into her term of office. At tonight's AGM, students attempted to ask questions about LUSU's 'toxic culture', and Ms Prydderch's resignation, but the questions were not accepted by the chair.
The new Activities sabb, Victoria Hatch, who has only been in office since January, was the only sabb to include a budget report in her officer report. It reveals that she spent £52.92 in food costs across two recent events to discuss accessibility in sports and societies.
Of the six Part-Time Officer porfolios, only four submitted written reports to the AGM, and only two of those included a budget report. The Students with Disabilities Officers, who lost their re-election bid last week, revealed that they have spent £195.32 across their campaigns this year. The Mature Students' Officer, who was elected in December has not yet spent any of her budget.
An examination of LUSU's accounts reveals that the officer expenses budget has soared by almost a third in recent years. In 2016, the 'Officer and Committee Expenses' was £43,652, but this had risen to £57,707 in 2019.
As pointed out by Ms Prydderch's motion, 'In an era of increased accountability, transparency and student engagement, one area that has been overlooked is the funding allocation of the Students’ Union budgets.' The lack of financial and budgetary oversight in LUSU is especially concerning given the size of its budget. Last year, LUSU's overall turnover was £8,168,067, far more than most students' unions.
Tonight's resumption of the AGM, as with last week's hustings, was held on the Bailrigg campus during one of the UCU strike days, hence prohibiting postgraduates who are on strike from attending. This scheduling decision was made despite the first part of the AGM mandating sabbs to support the strike. The LUSU Articles of Association require the Trustee Board to ensure that AGMs are held at a time and place that allows the 'maximum number of Student Members to attend' (Article 16.1). It is possible that excluding striking students from attending the AGM is a violation of the Articles. Not that LUSU's Trustee Board ignoring the rules would be anything new...
Spineless is pessimistic that a students' union establishment incapable of following its own rules and implementing its own policy shall ever allow for the financial transparency that students have demanded. We hope the new sabbs elected last week will prove us wrong.