As York prepares to play host to Government ministers, Councillor Keith Aspden says the event will provide a shot in the arm for the city
In the build-up to any party political conference there is the usual mix of gossip, guesswork and speculation.
The media normally talk of conferences as being “crunch-time” for party leaders and discussion of events inside the conference centre being overshadowed by scandal, protest, or events outside is common.
For the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, which takes place at the Barbican from Friday (March 7), this has been no different.
However, I would like to leave this chatter to one side and talk about the opportunities offered by the conference being staged in York – outside of the party political bubble.
The Liberal Democrat Spring Conference coming to York is good news for York. Visit York estimate that it will boost the city’s economy by more than £600,000.
Hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering businesses are reporting high demand for accommodation as 1,400 delegates make their way to the city this weekend.
These delegates will bring their partners and families, who in turn are likely to be spending more time in the shops and attractions of York than they are in the conference centre debating the finer points of policy.
If they like York (which I know they will) they will come back for future visits.
Come the conference weekend we can expect restaurants and pubs to be boosted as they fill-up with delegates and their families along with the hordes of journalists looking for a scoop.
York’s biggest conference?
Added to the short-term economic boost is the long-term impact that the exposure will bring. It is a showcase for York as a destination for conferences and events.
The conference industry is worth millions to the UK economy and York should get its fair share. Ours is a beautiful, well-connected city with the potential to hold many more political and business events.
Many have said this is the biggest conference the city has staged. It may well be, but our ambitions shouldn’t end there. This weekend can and should be a platform for future events.
Added to the economic boost is the fact that government ministers will be in York meeting and talking to local politicians and business leaders.
It is a great opportunity to raise local issues with the people who hold the national purse strings and reigns of power.
Liberal Democrats have never been afraid of vigorous debate and we are the only major party whose conferences actually make a difference.
Unlike our Labour or Conservative equivalents, at Lib Dem conferences it is members who debate and decide policy – often to the frustration of the party’s leadership. The planned TUC protest this weekend I am sure will add to this mix.
Our political conference will not be a stage-managed PR exercise and nor should it be. However, holding the conference should be a great public relations advert for York and the refurbished Barbican.
This weekend is an opportunity to show the visiting media what the rest of us already know – that York is a great place to live, visit, do businesses, or hold conferences!
If any residents would like to find out more about the conference and the issues being debated or they would like to get involved, please go to the conference website.
- Councillor Keith Aspden is leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on City of York Council
- See also Is the party over for the Lib Dems in York?
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