With nearly 1,200 police officers and around 600 police staff, Gwent Police covers a 600-square mile are in the southeast of Wales. Like many large public sector organisations, it’s faced each year with the challenge of closing its accounts to a demanding schedule.
When Head of Finance Lorna Virgo joined in June 2017 in the middle of the year-end process, she found the finance team struggling with a Word and Excel-based system that was poorly suited to Gwent Police’s complex accounts.
According to Lorna: “The system for closing accounts didn’t work effectively. It was a painful process for everyone concerned.”
At PwC where she had previously worked, Lorna led a project using software to improve trial balances and account closedown. So when CIPFA’s Accounts Closedown solution (nicknamed the ‘Big Red Button’ by some of its customers) was mentioned at an industry event, it seemed an ideal solution for Gwent Police.
Support for transition
Lorna notes that the process of switching to the CIPFA solution demands effort from finance teams. “We had to translate everything from the previous year into the new way so it could be mapped. It took two team members and was a difficult process but it means the team now understands the new system. It’s worth the pain for the gain of having the ‘big red button’ set up.”
Throughout the setup process, the team had support from CIPFA consultants, who helped with mapping data and making sure everything was correctly formatted. This was a crucial part of the transition, according to Lorna: “The CIPFA consultants were very responsive and able to offer close support. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to get where we are today.”
Easy first-draft accounts anticipated
Time pressures in 2018 meant the finance team at Gwent Police weren’t able to use the full capacity of CIPFA’s Accounts Closedown solution. However, following a review of this year’s experience, it’s anticipated that producing a good first draft set of accounts will be “easy” next year. Lorna points out: “With a team that has no experience in preparing CIPFA-compliant accounts, the Accounts Closedown solution provides a framework to understand how it’s done – giving learning and development opportunities that people wouldn’t otherwise have.
It also offers valuable automation and helps identify ways to improve processes. We’ve had positive comments from our auditors and were able to turn around adjustments much more quickly than before.”
The Gwent Police finance team’s positive experience with CIPFA’s ‘Big Red Button’ has led to interest from other organisations keen to learn how it’s helped streamline the annual accounts process.
To discuss how CIPFA can help you with closing your accounts - from software solutions to advice, from people to consultancy – contact our Closedown team:
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