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POA Circular 156/2020 signalled that the NEC were making preparations to hold Annual Conference in Southport in November 2021 and therefore postponed the May 2021 Conference which proved to be the correct decision given the situation with the pandemic as the May 2021 Conference would certainly not have gone ahead.
Indeed, the planning had gone ahead but realistically after getting a full report from Sefton Council regarding a Conference for November 2021, it is clear that the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre (STCC), which went into liquidation in 2020 won’t be an option even for November 2021. Sefton Council are keeping all options open but even a short- term rescue package of the STCC would mean with refurbishment it would not be accessible until at least December 2021. Plans are also in place after a £37 million investment for Southport to demolish and rebuild the STCC long term.
Alternative planning of various other venues in different parts of the country were also costed but realistically we cannot guarantee any venue will be ready for November 2021 with adequate facilities for the size of our annual conference that we have including accommodation.
The National Executive Committee at its meeting on 14th April 2021 after being briefed on the issues of a November 2021 Annual Conference being outside our control made the difficult decision to postpone Conference this year and concentrate on a full 5- day Annual Conference in 2022. This was an incredibly difficult decision and all options were explored but the situation is not within our control regarding venues and a conference that can be attended by nearly 400 delegates and visitors. The NEC wanted to make an early decision and convey that to the membership as quickly as possible so that no unnecessary costs in planning were paid unnecessarily. The NEC also recognised that Annual Conference is our parliament for decision making and it is essential at the first available opportunity that Conference is put on so that the democratic processes of setting policy can once again be enacted but as stated it is out of our hands at present. We are not alone in this difficult decision making as many Trade Unions including the TUC are not in 2021 having any physical face to face conferences.
The Executive in the coming weeks want to explore different options over the weeks ahead where some meetings can be facilitated physically. That could include a series of Area meetings, District meetings, or other methods in order that branch officials can report back and keep vital communications open between branches and NEC on the issues that are important to you. These clearly will not be decision making meetings as that can only be facilitated through an Annual Conference, but we believe it essential over the coming months if possible, for those meetings to be carried out.
The NEC will keep you fully updated on our plans in the coming months and we look forward to a full face to face Conference in 2022.
Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.