Anthony Walters, Head of Public Affairs, ACCA
It’s Sunday, it’s late September and I’m stood suited and booted on a crowded train heading to Brighton. It can only mean one thing. Party conference season is upon us.
ACCA banner in hand, it’s an apt time to reflect on why we’re here at the Labour Party Conference. ACCA is apolitical with no allegiance to any political party. This is important. Independence and impartially allows us to contribute an objective and evidence-driven voice to debates on matters affecting the profession.
So why bother with party conferences? Well, there are two sides to Party Conferences. The first is the political grandstanding (as obvious as that sounds). The opportunity for politicians to rally the troops. Then there is the fringe side where organisations of all types and interests present research, debate the big issues and put forward policy suggestions to audiences of both politicians and non-political influencers.
From a public affairs point of view, this latter side of conference is where the action happens. It’s where connections and partnerships are made with a view to influencing political decision-making.
ACCA has long had a presence at the Party Conferences. We very much operate in the fringe and influencing space. Over the years we’ve built strong relations with governing parties and their opposition. This has underpinned our ability to engage with policymakers long after conference season. In fact, if attending conference is about opening doors it’s the follow-on engagement that achieves the results. As an example, success could be ensuring the concerns of our members are heard by the government (Making Tax Digital is a recent example of this), or getting ACCA research in front of policymakers.
As far as our public affairs work goes party conferences are an important milestone in our government engagement calendar. It’s where we lay the foundations for our targeted campaigning activity for the weeks and months ahead.
But, conference is not just about getting in front of politicians, it also provides an opportunity to form collaborations with other organisations and fellow professional bodies to tackle issues that are of mutual interest.
Last, and most importantly, being at conference and participating in debates is an opportunity to promote the work of ACCA members. In an uncertain time, ACCA members hold the professional skills which will be essential in helping business and the public sector both tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities the lay ahead. This was very much the message that our CEO, Helen Brand OBE, set out when she spoke at a business forum alongside shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner MP on Sunday evening.
Next weekend we’ll be in Manchester for the Conservative conference. Watch this space for more updates!