Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

David Enticott FCPFA, Finance Director and Company Secretary

David is the Finance Director and Company Secretary for Derby Homes, Derby City Council’s arm’s length management organisation (ALMO), where he has worked since 2010. David previously worked for Derby City Council on the client side of that same relationship for seven years, and at Derbyshire County Council in education accounts.

After studying economics and politics at the University of Warwick from 1980–1983, David began to work at Surrey County Council in January 1984, where he qualified as a CIPFA member in 1989. Over the course of his career, he has been involved with the Local Government Association (LGA), CIPFA’s Housing Panel and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) panels on council housing finance. In 2015, David was nominated as one of Public Finance’s Top 50 Trailblazers.

What led you to qualify with CIPFA and pursue a career in the public sector?

Back in the 1950s before I was born my grandfather was killed in a motorcycling accident, leaving my grandmother – who had seven children to look after – with no means of support. My grandmother got the first post-war council house constructed from scratch in Cardiff, which significantly reduced the financial strain of raising seven children as a widow. My father went on to get a first at Oxford University, which highlights the huge, positive difference that the provision of council housing made for my family – and continues to make for many others. This aspect of my family’s history is what attracted me to the public sector. I have always been pro-council housing and have always been supportive of public services. Ultimately, you are working for the public good – not private profit.

What have been the highlights or biggest successes of your career to date?

When I first started at Derby City Council, one of my managers was working with an MHCLG panel to co-design some additional freedoms and flexibilities for ALMOs, as Derby Homes was one of the first six ALMOs. My manager couldn’t go to one particular meeting and asked me to cover it, and I’ve been attending similar meetings ever since! This was a pivotal moment for me because it is one of the reasons why I ended up where I am now, and is why I’m involved in the technical working groups of the LGA, CIPFA’s Housing Panel and MHCLG on housing finance. All of this stemmed from that one moment.

In terms of achievements, I was very pleased to be nominated for Public Finance’s first Top 50 Trailblazers Award in 2015. The following year, at the Public Finance Innovation Awards, Derby Homes won the prize for innovation in financial reporting and accountability,  and we’ve been nominated every year since, which for me is a terrific accolade for the work we are achieving.

What have been the greatest challenges, both during your career and within the public finance sector as a whole?

From my perspective, the high right-to-buy (RTB) discounts create the greatest challenges in the housing sector, because we’re selling properties way below the price that we need to sell them for - not only to replace them, but also to increase the number as we need to.

The RTB has existed for a long time now and as a consequence we’ve lost roughly half of the council housing that was available in Derby over the past 40 years. This means that far fewer properties are becoming available to house people, which serves to augment the homelessness problem and means that we have to spend a lot of money creating new social housing. The RTB undermines our ability, both financially and stock-wise, to home people who are in desperate need of social housing.

How has being a CIPFA member supported you in your career?

In the public sector, our primary aim is to promote public wellbeing, while the private sector’s core objective is to extract cash for shareholders. CIPFA’s focus and approach is therefore completely different to that of other accounting bodies, and because of this CIPFA has really enhanced my ability to serve the public effectively.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? And by who?

As a trainee, one of my lecturers told me that I was likely to one day become a director of finance. This was a huge confidence boost and made me think “I can do this”, particularly as I didn’t actually qualify first-time round. This was more encouragement than advice – but it was encouragement that spurred me on and taught me not to give up.

What advice would you give to people who are beginning their career in public finance?

First and foremost, work in an area that interests you if you can. Secondly, push for what you see as the right thing to do, not just financially, but also in terms of outcome for the public. Spend the public’s money carefully and try not to waste it – but equally don’t hold back where investments can pay off for the public.

What book/film/podcast would you recommend to anyone working in public finance?

When I was a younger, I attended the Rock Against Racism Carnival in Victoria Park in London because I wanted to stand up for what I believed in. A film called White Riot is due to come out in September 2020, which is about the Rock Against Racism movement. I’d highly recommend watching this film when it is released. The movement was all about doing what was right and helping others, which is likewise the purpose of the public sector.  

What would you say to somebody thinking of becoming a CIPFA member?

Becoming a CIPFA member is a fantastic decision because CIPFA will support you in your public sector career. Looking back, I’m incredibly pleased with where I have ended up. I even met my wife on a CIPFA training course! I’m proud to be a CIPFA member.