The recent Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the financial sustainability of local authorities heard CIPFA’s Chief Executive Rob Whiteman say that, "in terms of robustness, there is a normal distribution curve, and some councils are better than others. Recent high profile failures are as much about financial management and management failure as about austerity".
Understandably finance managers do not want to be caught on the wrong point in the ‘robustness curve’ and they are making determined efforts to strengthen both their financial governance and the value-adding parts of their departments.
The main areas they are seeking to address include:
- weak business cases
- skills gaps in good financial management
- lack of adherence to good practice in commissioning and procurement
- poor negotiation know-how
- lax processes for monitoring contracts.
As the National Audit Office (NAO) and others have observed, the above can all lead to a demonstrable failure to realise the intended outcomes in often complex commercial arrangements between public service bodies or with the private sector.
So what is being done to address these issues? At CIPFA, we are receiving an unprecedented number of requests for help in skilling up finance staff and helping operational managers and budget holders to take greater ownership of their numbers and provide value in service delivery.
Authorities are also increasingly using CIPFA’s Training Needs Analysis service or their own systems to identify their needs.
The overwhelming theme emerging from these requests is ‘commercialism’, or the desire to take a more business-like and value adding approach to financial management. This is clearly seen in the staff undertaking our level 7 Finance Business Partnering qualification – there is a real ambition to change the way that their finance departments work from the traditional ‘policing’ role to showing how finance-thinking can improve planning and decision making on the front line.
For example, one shared service organisation is creating joint teams of finance and procurement business partners who work closely with their operational managers to drive improvements in value. Cross training of finance, HR and procurement business partners is becoming more common, built around core relationship-building skills and appreciation of each other’s skills sets.
Depending on where your organisation is on the ‘robustness curve’, you may be after a short, stand-alone refresher course to address a specific need or a more in-depth qualification to imbed new skills.
We have a range of one-day courses and accredited qualifications on our website. The topics covered include:
- Alternative service delivery
- Asset valuation
- Better business cases
- Business strategy
- Change management
- Contract management and competitive dialogue
- Developing a marketing strategy
- Influencing and negotiation
The courses we offer are helping authorities improve their commercial approach, featuring in both departmental and organisational change programmes. All can be delivered in-house, at your location and tailored to meet your team’s specific needs and organisational context.
As part of CIPFA’s commitment to helping the sector, we are also working with government and national bodies to develop new training products to help strengthen financial robustness including a new Level 7 qualification for Budget Managers launching in the autumn.
For full details on the courses now available, visit the training section of the website and contact the Customer Services team for a quote.
T: 020 7543 5600