Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

Regional Autumn Forum and North East conference: the highlights

CIPFA proudly hosted its 2021 Autumn Forum and North East conference in Newcastle on 11 and 12 November to the delight of all attendees.

CIPFA ex-President Andy Hardy hailed meeting face to face again as “a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the importance of our community” following almost two years of COVID-19 restrictions as CIPFA and the public sector moves into a post-pandemic world. Andy also touched on the importance of diversity and inclusion across both CIPFA and the public services in this new ‘levelling up’ world.

This two-day event consisted of CIPFA staff and members coming together to share their experiences and insights from the past year and to share ideas for 2022. There was also a presentation on the much-anticipated CIPFA business plan and transformation project from COO Dan Worsley and Director of Policy and Membership Drew Cullen.

The evening of 11 November saw four regional awards presented to several of our incredible members, students and regions acknowledging some of the fantastic achievements during the past year.

The Regional Innovation of the Year award went to the Midlands region for the virtual 2021 Management Games (Sixth Form Games). It was a fantastic return for the games after 2020, and the region was a worthy winner, as the initiative ensured the programme could continue to be offered to a wide audience of students, despite the ongoing situation with COVID-19. It has paved the way for other regions to adopt their own versions (the North East having already delivered theirs), increasing volunteering opportunities and delivery of educational content across the UK.

The Event Programme of the Year award went to the South East region for their well-coordinated, well-publicised and varied programme of events, including the creation of a new hub group following demand for a dedicated network. The programme comprised CPD and sector-specific events, including a workplace wellbeing series looking at how colleagues and members have coped during the pandemic while working remotely, and offering tips for self-assessment of fatigue, isolation and stress. The region has excelled in the provision of events virtually during the pandemic, ensuring they have been easily accessible to all members.

The Hedley Marshall memorial award (named after 1953 CIPFA President Dr Hedley Marshall CBE) went to Phil Butlin CPFA. This award is given for outstanding contributions to regional activities, and the winner is nominated by their peers, in this case President of CIPFA South East Kathryn Long, who sang Phil’s praises:

“He can best be described as a ‘wise head’ and ‘critical friend’ as we consider new initiatives in our region … his longevity of service is an example and inspiration to all South East members and students, and he is a champion of the intangible career values of professional networking.”

The CIPFA North East David Clarke award went to student Lin Liu. This award is presented annually to a student in the region for outstanding contribution and support of fellow students. Lin has demonstrated dedication and commitment to helping her peers this year through volunteering in a variety of roles, including as CIPFA North East secretary, where she has coordinated and minuted committee meetings and organised events such as Women in Leadership and the North East Management Games, among others. She is currently Vice President of the CIPFA Student Network, representing students in her region and participating in CIPFA’s governance structure.

The North East conference on 12 November addressed several issues facing the region in its public service provision, with speeches on the Tyne & Wear metro fleet replacement programme, the role of social housing on the push to net zero carbon, sustaining nature, climate, people and place, city centre transformation and, of course, the COVID-19 recovery. Keep reading for a more detailed exploration of the conference.

This year’s Autumn Forum celebrated both the achievements and challenges of the past year within CIPFA and across the public sector as a whole. Thank you to everyone who attended, and huge congratulations to our regional awards winners.

The North East conference: the day in detail

By Kevin Johnston, CIPFA North East

The tenth CIPFA North East annual conference was held on Friday 12 November at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Over 70 people attended, including many colleagues from across the UK regions who had arrived the previous day for the CIPFA regional Autumn Forum, also hosted by the North East.

The conference opened with an introduction and welcome from the current CIPFA North East President and host for the day, James Charlton. The first presentation was delivered by Professor Andy Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and immediate past CIPFA President. Andy provided a national CIPFA update and summarised the recent financial landscape, as well as the future challenges the public sector faces in light of the pandemic, including significant funding challenges.

Next up was Michael Brodie, Chief Executive of NHS Business Services Authority. Michael presented eleven of his ‘takes’ during the recent pandemic and provided some thought-provoking ideas for attendees to consider and take away. Following Michael, John Fenwick, Director of Finance and Resources at Nexus, delivered a detailed presentation covering many aspects of the well-known metro system. From the initial concept, delegates were taken on a journey (excuse the pun!) through to the present day and into the future, touching on infrastructure renewal and fleet replacement.

After a short lunch break, sessions continued with a thought-provoking and in-depth presentation from Claire Thompson, Sustainability Lead at Livin Ltd. Claire presented the stark facts around climate change and global warming, the consequences of this, likely effects of inaction and what can be done to mitigate it – a real wake-up call for all to do whatever we can to help in this time of crisis.

Next up Tony Gates, Chief Executive of the Northumberland National Park Authority, provided an insight into the organisation. Following recent challenges from budget cuts, which led to centre closures, and the subsequent impact on visitor numbers, the Authority are now looking to the future. Aided by official government advice to exercise outside, visitor numbers have increased significantly. Using ‘recover together’ as a key concept encompassing economy, people, nature, climate and place, the organisation faces a positive future, despite ongoing funding pressures.

The penultimate session presented by Paul Dunn (Executive Financial Director, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust), Paul Price (Commercial Director) and Sarah Rose (Divisional Director, Northumbria NHS Manufacturing Innovation Hub) gave delegates a fascinating insight into the creation of a PPE manufacturing hub at the height of the pandemic.  Faced with worldwide shortages, a factory was set up and running within six weeks, producing large volumes of PPE for use by healthcare professionals across the region. The hub continues to go from strength to strength, producing goods at a fraction of imported prices, gaining increased commercial orders and venturing into new service areas.

The final session was delivered by Michelle Percy, Director of Place at Newcastle City Council. Michelle explained the impact COVID-19 has had on the city and plans for recovery based on a place-based approach, including skills, business growth, the future economy, community and place, and digital and transport. Examples of recent schemes and investment in the city by both government and private enterprise were covered, illustrating how Newcastle City Council is emerging from the pandemic and looking to the future with these ambitious plans.

The day ended with attendees taking the opportunity to catch up and network over drinks with CIPFA friends and colleagues they had not seen face to face for two years. There was evident enthusiasm for safe in-person gatherings, which bodes well for 2022, as CIPFA North East has an ambitious programme of both online and face-to-face events, which we look forward to welcoming you to in the new year!