Balancing the budget – the art of the possible


By Joanne Pitt, Local Government Policy and Technical Manager, CIPFA

Balancing the budget is high on the list of challenges for all directors of finance. In a time of reducing grants this task is becoming even tougher. The scale of financial pressure is now so huge that every part of the authority must play an active part in achieving the financial imperative of a balanced budget. 

If the budget fails to balance spending freezes, the possibility of more serious sanctions would need to be considered as the reality of the austerity measures set in. Good financial management and medium term planning cannot always offer protect from unexpected change. So what are the options for moving forward to ensure budgets are balanced? 

Thinking in the round

CIPFA recently hosted a CFO roundtable on balancing budgets to generate thinking around this topic. A briefing paper (PDF, 307 KB) was provided for delegates. At the roundtable, senior finance professionals, other stakeholders and the CIPFA Local Government Policy team explored the challenges and issues faced by CFOs. Discussion centred around the:

  • need for a broader definition of a balanced budget that represented more than one year
  • importance of a collaborative leadership team approach
  • need difficulties of balancing statutory responsibility and a reducing budget
  • use of a section 114.

An Insight report that captures the thoughts and debates at the event will shortly be available.

Moving forward

The debate is far from over. We are holding the CIPFA Local Government Conference on 25 May 2016 in London. Themed Balancing the budget – the art of the possible, it is open to all senior public sector finance professionals, where the opening morning sessions directly address spending freezes and their consequences. 

Complementing this, CIPFA will shortly be publishing a technical guide on balancing the budgets which will be available in the publications section of the CIPFA website.

  • If you would like to discuss balancing budgets, section 114 notices and how CIPFA can help your organisation with support around this subject please contact Cliff Dalton, Head of CIPFA Local Government on E: