The CIPFA presidency passed from Jayne Owen to Caroline Rassell at this year’s AGM on 26 June in London, the day before the start of PF Live.
A bit about Caroline
Caroline has worked in local government, the NHS, government-owned private companies and now the charitable sector. She is currently CEO of Parkinson’s UK. She is an avid park runner and wellbeing advocate, and she also recently returned to learning to play the piano after a 40-year break.
CIPFA presidency 2023/24
Caroline was in London, where she did most of her training to become a CIPFA accountant, for the AGM and PF Live on 26–28 June as she takes on the presidency for the forthcoming year.
Wearing bright, vibrant clothes, comfortable shoes and walking the stage rather than standing behind the lectern, she looked every bit the “authentic, approachable and human” President that she hopes to be as she connected with her audience during her opening speech on day one of PF Live.
Caroline expressed her happiness at being in a room full of people again after the prolonged pandemic restrictions and then reflected on where she feels life, and indeed society, is now in a post-COVID world.
“We are starting to see the impact that COVID had on society, the workforce and our economy. Alongside this, the effects of Brexit and wider global turbulence, we continue to seek to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. For me, it’s incredibly important that as CIPFA President this year, I ensure that there is a significant focus on our members – support for them as individuals, professionals and part of complex organisations.”
Elsewhere, Caroline highlighted the ongoing global impacts of the war in Ukraine and the deepening cost of living crisis. Despite this, she stated, the public sector has continued delivering essential services to the communities it serves. She also reminded everyone that it is the poorest in our society who are hardest hit by soaring energy prices and high inflation, and it is often the poorest who depend on the public services the most.
“It is a testament to all of your hard work, to the commitment of everyone in this room and your resilience in the face of adversity, that the public sector is still running, still delivering for communities and still very much alive and kicking.”
As the sector itself faces its own challenges during this time, Caroline reinforced the role that CIPFA has to play in ensuring lessons learnt are shared and guidance and advice are provided to both its members and organisations through being a voice of reason and good governance.
Caroline’s key themes
Caroline confirmed that she will be continuing and building on Jayne’s three themes from 2022/23.
“To me, sustainability is about balancing the demands of today with building a future full of hope for the next generation … a number of local authorities, despite their pressures, are still investing in green transport options and continue to maintain our brilliant local open spaces. These may seem small things, but they help sustain our environment, encourage connections, activity and wellbeing and provide a foundation for the future. These types of services must be cherished and closely guarded.”
“We are linked. We want what’s best for our populations, and whether that’s local services, policing, healthcare, arts and culture, our aim is the same. The collective endeavours that we are part of build better services, have greater impact and are more resilient for the people we serve. The sum of our parts is greater than the whole – simply, we are stronger together.”
“All too often, it is the case that the circumstances of a person’s birth and early years determine their life chances. I can see this clearly in my charity. Parkinson’s is indiscriminate in who suffers from the condition, and there are no preventive measures or lifestyle changes that individuals can take. In deprived parts of England, people are isolated and don’t get involved in connecting or activity, so their condition deteriorates quicker. This is wrong. We have a role as advisors, professionals and leaders to work to highlight how we improve inequalities.”
Caroline concluded her speech by encouraging CIPFA to continue to be synonymous with equal opportunities, to be seen as the qualification that welcomes students and members from all walks of life, and strive for a membership that reflects the communities it serves.
We wish Caroline the very best of luck for her presidential year.
Photo © Rafael Bastos Photography