Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor is an accountant in Business Planning and Corporate Finance with Cambridgeshire County Council.

After studying BSc Mathematics at Durham University, Amy graduated in July 2011 and started on the Financial Management Graduate Scheme at Cambridgeshire County Council the following August. Her first placement was in Children & Young People’s Services, with responsibilities split between financial advising, assisting with debt reporting and pulling together the monthly finance report.

Amy's second year placement was as a Financial Adviser in Economy, Transport & Environment, which gave her exposure to capital finance. Towards the end of her second placement she gained a substantive post as an Accountant in Children’s Services, supporting demand led budgets of Looked After Children and Home to School Transport. While it was challenging for Amy to move into the new role while finishing her CIPFA studies, she was supported through it by her colleagues.

At the end of 2014, Amy became the scheme coordinator for Cambridgeshire County Council’s Finance Graduate Scheme. She led two years’ recruitment - one of which was outsourced while the other was brought back in house.

Why did you choose accountancy as a career, and what is your current role like?

I studied Maths at university and always saw myself in a career that involved numbers and analysis.

I focus on the technical aspects of the council’s budget setting process, incorporating funding announcements and policy changes. It is a challenging but rewarding role and gives me the opportunity to see how different parts of the organisation are being redesigning to deliver services more effectively.

Why did you choose to work in public services?

I was drawn to the values and principles, as well as the diverse range of opportunities. In researching for job applications, I discovered the graduate schemes offered more variety, responsibility and support. It’s also easier to link your work with real life results, rather than it just being about the numbers.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The variety and the people. I have been lucky to have a wide experience of public finance including procurement projects, developing service knowledge and now funding arrangements and local government policy. I enjoy seeing the impact the council has on public life and the people I work with are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their fields.

Why did you choose CIPFA compared with other training providers?

CIPFA is the leading accountancy body for public sector finance and offers you training in areas of management, leadership and people development, as well as the traditional topics you’d associate with accountancy. CIPFA is a demanding qualification but will give you the tools you need to progress quickly.

Now I’m a scheme coordinator, I have been able to experience CIPFA from both sides. As an organisation it is always striving to improve and exceed expectation.

How did you feel when you graduated as a CPFA?

When I learned that I had qualified, it was one of the most magical moments of my life. It meant so much to me at that time and my association with CIPFA has been a dominant influence on my career. 

How was your study route funded? Were you sponsored by your current employer?

My studies were wholly funded by my employer, Cambridgeshire County Council, as part of the training scheme.

How does the CIPFA PQ help you in your day-to-day tasks?

I have found CIPFA extremely useful in helping to decipher government briefings and analyse the financial impact. Knowing the Institute is there to provide a forum for discussion and pooling expertise is very comforting.

The CIPFA qualification has given me the skills to challenge the status quo.

What opportunities does your organisation have for aspiring public finance accountants?

Cambridgeshire County Council has a long established graduate finance programme with an annual intake and a very successful history. In recent years, many trainees have moved into substantive managerial posts prior to completion of their CIPFA studies and currently we only have first and second year trainees still on training contracts.

Over a three to four year period, trainees undertake placements in service finance, corporate finance and internal audit, on a 12-month rotation cycle. Each placement provides a varied mix of day-to-day work and key projects, supporting the needs of trainees’ CIPFA studies and development as public sector accountants.

Alongside the placements, Cambridgeshire County Council offers a generous study support package including day release to attend college at CETC in London, funded travel to college and study leave in addition to annual leave entitlements.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I am looking forward to developing my knowledge of local government operations and the opportunities this will bring. I am interested in working in other areas of the public sector, continuing to develop my skills and progressing up the management scale.

What advice would you give to young people who are looking to pursue a career in public finance?

A career in public finance is challenging but highly rewarding. It is a very interesting time for the public sector so don’t be afraid to bring new ideas. Take every opportunity that is presented to you and never stop asking questions.