Annual Conference

We report back on the events at CIPFA in the North East's Annual Conference 2015

Almost 100 delegates from across the North East of England and the rest of the country gathered at The Sage, Gateshead, on Friday 20 November 2015 for the fifth annual CIPFA in the North East Regional Conference.

The CIPFA in the North East President, Clive Johnson, opened the conference and welcomed Sir Tony Redmond, Past President of CIPFA, as our chairman for the day. Sir Tony introduced the conference and laid out some of the themes for the day, under the general heading of "Devolution, Growth, and Public Sector Reform."

Sir Tony then introduced Professor Mark Tewder-Jones from Newcastle University, talking about Newcastle City Futures and scenarios for 2065. There is a changing landscape for the North East generally and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in particular, including the digital economy and the impact of the North East Combined Authority. He showed some possible pictures of Newcastle in 2065 - including a dalek on the Millenium Bridge! But admitted that we rarely get predictions quite right; showing a model of what the future looked like in 1965. Newcastle City Futures had published a document called 'What Would You Do?' looking forwards to 2065. The consultation process on this was extensive, and involved three seperate possible scenarios: Continuing of present trends, London implodes and Newcastle as a test-bed city. The aims of the Newcastle City Futures Development Group was to discuss research of possible benefit to the city as a whole. Was the North East slipping behind? We need to identify future projects, work collaboratively, and share ideas.

This presentation led into a panel session to explore further some of Professor Tewder-Jones' themes, with considerable interaction with the audience.

The next session was by Henry Kippin of Collaborate, on How To Manage Rising Demand for Public Services. There was a need to manage demand for public services as part of collaborative approach to dealing with public sector austerity. He talked about the Groucho Marx challenge for public services (i.e. the percentages just don't add up). Managing demand is about building a new relationship between citizens and the state. He discussed the 'Five inconvenient truths' facing demand management in public services, and the different types of demand: Failure Demand, Avoidable Demand, Excess Demand, Preventable Demand and Co-dependent Demand. Better use of data, communications and 'nudge', pay mechanisms and co-design with citizens were all ways of managing demand. We need to ask what levers we have or need to shape demand? Are they working? And can they be improved?

After a break for refreshments, Michael Brodie, Finance and Commercial Director, Public Health England, and Past President of CIPFA in the North East, talked about Public Health and Public Service Reform. Public sector reform involved getting better results for less by tackling the real problems. For Public Health, this focused on the 152 responsible local authorities, with Public Health England as a national co-ordinating role. Local authorities would work on public health issues in conjunction with NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, via joint Health and Wellbeing Boards. The UK still had pockets of poor health and health inequalities overall despite 65+ years of an NHS free at point of use. The main causes of disease are lifestyle related: Smoking, obesity and alcohol. Social drivers (economic prosperity and a good start to life) are key to better outcomes. PHE was a vocal supporter of Devolution on Public Health. The role of accountants on Public Health included Spend mapping across different public sector and other organisations.

John Matheson, current CIPFA_President and Director of Finance for the Scottish Government Health Directorates, talked about Health and Social Care Integration in Scotland. This recession has lasted longer and deeper than previous ones. There would be a funding gap in Scotland until at least 2025. Scotland faced an aging population: an 82% increase in over-75s by 2035. There was an Emergent Scottish Model of Health and Social Care Integration being developed: it was ambitious, but the Scottish Government was in it for the long haul. He talked about the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, trying to make Scotland the safest nation on earth for health care. He also spoke about the Scottish Early Years Collaboration - aiming to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up in. He also talked about the mpact of high-resource individuals on Health and Social Care spending; 1.3% of population account for 50% of spend.

Just before lunch, the winner of the inaugural Joint EY/CIPFA in the North East Award was announced and presented with his prize.

Over lunchtime, Tana Forrest from CIPFA did an update session for the student members present, including an introduction to CIPFA's Professional Experience Portfolio (PEP) for students.

For the post-lunch session, Michael Johnson, from the Centre for Policy Studies, asked 'Who Will Care for Generation Y? - today's 15- to 34-year-olds. They faced unaffordable housing, college debt, fragmented careers and thinner pensions. There had been 7.1 workers per pensioner in 1941; there would only be 1.8 workers per pensioner in 2051. The UK has the worst gross household savings rate (6.4%) of any EU country, except Greece. He used the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) to demonstrate the potential size of pensions and other non-cash state liabilities. He proposed an Office for Inter-generational Responsibility to look at the tax/benefits balance, and to try to curb the tendency of the baby-boomer generation for making unfunded promises to itself. A summary of his presentation can be found on the CPS website.

Kevin Morris and Sara Pearson from Zurich Municipal gave the final presentation of the day on Risk and Uncertainty in a Changing World. They introduced 'Pioneers' - the third edition of their Senior Managers Report, this year with a focus on the North. Sara introduced the themes of report: five more years austerity, combined authorities, Health and Social Care integration, and the survival of Social Care. In future, the public sector would be working around agendas, not organisations; with councils at the centre of an over-lapping network of public sector and other organsisations. Kevin said that Health and Social Care Integration would not be easy. Governance and funding issues would need to be dealt with. Social care was at risk due to reduced funding vs 'unreasonable' resident expectations. The future would see the 'next generation' authority; a commissioner rather than a direct provider of services.

The final session of the day was a panel session; a chance to draw together ideas from the day and ask further questions of the speakers and others. Afterwards, Sir Tony Redmond concluded his chairing duties by summarising and bringing together the themes of the day. Thanks to all our speakers for an interesting, enjoyable and often challenging day at the conference. Thanks also to everyone on the CIPFA in the North East Regional Executive who helped make the conference happen. And thanks to all the staff at The Sage, Gateshead for looking after us so well.

The day finished with a drinks reception kindly provided by our sponsors.

Copies of the presenters' slides from the day are available.

A slideshow of pictures from the conference is on CIPFA in the North East's Photobucket page.

A slideshow of pictures from the post-conference dinner is on CIPFA in the North East's Photobucket page.

Edited to add: During the panel session, Michael Johnson mentioned a book concerning behaviour, but realised afterwards that he had given the wrong name for the author.  Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is actually by Daniel H. Pink... not Thomas Pink, who makes shirts!