Opening address from new Regional President Carol McDonnell


In March 2023 I took over from Andrew Buck when I was elected to serve as CIPFA North West (NW) President for a two-year term.

I have over 20 years’ experience in public finance and have been a qualified CIPFA member since November 2020. While I only qualified in 2020, I have been involved in CIPFA for many years. Originally volunteering with the NW Audit Group, then with the NW Student Group, and finally with Regional Council. I have taken on the role of Chair of the NW Student Group, Secretary of the National CIPFA Student Network, Secretary of the NW Regional Council, followed by Junior-Vice President and then Vice President.

I am currently Lead Audit Manager at Liverpool City Council, having worked within Internal Audit at Halton Borough Council and St Helens Borough Council.  I am about to step up into the role of Head of Assurance at Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council later this year.

I am extremely honoured to have taken on the role of CIPFA NW President.

As part of my presidential address in March, I said the following:

I want to look at what we should be doing as a regional Council:

  • We are a member led organisation,
  • We should be working to support your CPD,
  • Listen to the views of the membership,
  • Communicate with the Institute on your behalf, giving the region a voice,
  • We need to understand the needs of the ever-changing public finance landscape,
  • We need to understand how we can work differently for your benefit,
  • We need to know what potential gaps there are in the current offer and CPD events,
  • We have a responsibility to provide technical and soft skills events,
  • We should address the impacts of the current landscape on our physical and mental well being,
  • We need to raise the regions profile,
  • We need to support the growth and retention of our membership.

I asked, ‘How can we do that?’ Well, that is difficult given where we are now, due to the impact the last few years has had on us as a region.

One issue facing the public sector is recruitment. We need to find new talent, young talent. We need students and should be supporting our students, after all they are the lifeblood of the institute. 

One of my biggest aims is to get the NW CIPFA Student Network back up and running. I did it once and will do it again. They were the envy of the other regions. As with any student network, they only last as long as the keen members remain students.  Given the perfect storm we have seen over the last few years, and the lack of ability for us to get out there speaking to students, it has gone by the wayside. I want to see us back up there getting nominated for awards, and hopefully winning. But really, I want to see a student network that is there to support the students; the students who will happily challenge CIPFA to make sure that CIPFA works best for them. I want to see students who will happily hold CIPFA co to account, as they did in the past. So, I have made a start already in advance of taking over as President today. I was so pleased to find out that there are students out there who have taken it upon themselves to form an informal student network. So, what were they missing? They were missing the support of the region, access to be able to get an email to all students in the NW, access to a budget to be able to put on events. I have had some conversations and can see that they are as passionate as I am. This is great! We are planning our first event to get students in the room, from this we will rebuild a formal student network. So, watch this space.

Another aim is to get the regional council back to where it was. Again, we had a regional council that was the envy of others. We still have good members, but the numbers are dwindling, and we haven’t been able to do as much as we would like. Today is the start of building us back up. We will aim to put on at least the AGM and Annual Conference and Dinner, but also put on other much needed events; for that, we need you. We need to know what you want from us, what sort of events do you want? What topics would you like us to cover? We need to find speakers to be able to do these events, and we need to find the right venues. For this we need volunteers. You don’t have to be a member to help out. To coin a phrase from a well know supermarket ‘every little helps!’. So please, get in touch. Let us know what you want, offer a little bit of your time if you can.

I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, there is a long way for us to go, so given where we are, I am going to leave it with those two aims… for now.

Let’s get the Council and Student Network back to where it was, and then think about future developments further down the line.

By way of an update, we have a very good NW CIPFA Student Network (NW CSN) now in place and raring to go. We held two events, one to let all students know what the NW CSN was, and also help them understand more about CIPFA in general.

We then had a second event to officially form the NW CSN. I am really pleased with the students who have come forward to volunteer and we have an excellent executive in place.  More details can be found on the NW CSN webpage. The student executive has also held their own first meeting and are already underway with planning some great events for students. 

We are in the process of organising our regional autumn conference and dinner which will be held on Friday 13 October 2023 at the Queen at Chester Hotel. The conference is being fully funded through sponsorship and reserves, so is being provided to delegates free of charge. The dinner will offer exceptional value, with a three-course dinner plus a drink for only £30 + VAT. We hope given the low cost, this will encourage members to join us in this excellent networking event.

Our sub-groups are working hard to put on other events, with the recent webinar titled ‘Levelling up in uncertain times’ organised by the Northern Section drawing in 81 delegates.

The Audit, Risk and Governance group are in the process of organising the Autumn Seminar planned to be held at County Hall, Preston on Wednesday 22 November.

Our retired members are planning their next event on 14 September 2023.

If you want to get involved or have any suggestions, please do get in touch at

Thank you,

Carol McDonnell CPFA,

CIPFA NW President.