By Adrian Pulham CIPFA’s Education & Membership Director
Whilst the anti-cuts march in London at the weekend was a further reminder, if a reminder was ever needed, as to just how unpopular the government’s austerity agenda is, the spending cuts themselves march on. Budgets continue to be reduced, more efficiencies are demanded and innovative ways of working are required so that effective services can continue to be delivered. With public sector organisations and staff needing to up their game, can they confidently say they have the financial expertise to properly understand, assess and plan for continued cuts and efficiency savings?
In addition to the cuts, one of the largest public sector reform programmes ever seen is being introduced. Across health, education and local government established working practices are being uprooted and new structures are being put in their place. In the current climate, public services can ill afford the time it takes for new structures to realise their potential and start delivering services better or more efficiently. The change process can be better managed and time reduced by ensuring that all senior staff understand the financial implications of new working arrangements and how to get the most out of them.
Equally, with more commissioning of services from the public sector and increased procurement, the shift from traditional management to contract management, a much more financially focused skill, is now evident. If contract managers do not have the necessary financial expertise to ensure these contracts are delivered properly then both public finances and public services will suffer.
Against this backcloth, Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service and a CIPFA member, has said that CIPFA’s members will be crucial to delivering public services during these challenging times. In highlighting that we now have the smallest civil service since the Second World War, he says it is even more important for civil servants to have financial expertise.
As the only accountancy body to specialise in the distinctive challenges of publicly funded, publicly accountable organisations we help our members play fully-effective roles in leading and shaping public sector organisations, particularly through this extended period of retrenchment and tight funding. To support senior staff in gaining the financial expertise and credibility they need, we have developed the Accelerated Route to CIPFA membership. This programme enables senior executives to study the CIPFA Professional Qualification in just two years rather than the standard three and with it gain the technical, business and leadership skills needed to excel in managing public money.
The pilot cohort, including participants from the Department for Work and Pensions and City of London, began their studies earlier this year and tell us that this new programme is intensive, challenging but highly rewarding. The deadline for the next cohort is 30 November and fast approaching, participants joining us will complete their studies in December 2014. More importantly than that, using the skills, knowledge and resources they will gain along the way they will be able to affect real change back in the office, better managing the financial implications of decisions and ultimately improving public finances and public services.
To find out more about the programme visit our webpage: www.cipfa.org/accelerated.