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July 18, 2024
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Cipfa chief: ‘We may need to be radical’

Local authorities must “consider the need to be radical” in the face of tight public finances, warns the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) Owen Mapley.

At the Public Finance Live conference this morning, Mr Mapley advised financial directors to be “bold tellers of inconvenient truths” throughout the “tough times ahead”.

He said: “With the state of public finances so tight, the likelihood of major increases in funding for public services is low. So I think we’ve all got to consider the need to be radical and consider new ways of doing things.”

Mr Mapley, who was chief executive at Hertfordshire CC until earlier this year, said that section 151 officers “hold a skeleton key” to local authorities so it is “up to” them to continue “providing challenge, insight, support, and when necessary, be bold tellers of inconvenient truth”.

He said: “We’ve got to make sure that those [finance professionals] have the skills to ask probing questions, to seek rigor and accuracy and reporting.”

The priorities of public services and “current responsibilities and way of organising things” are “some things we need to debate amongst ourselves” in the first weeks of the new government, Mr Mapley said.

However, he added there is “lots of optimism out there” with a “change in tone” from central government with “good recognition already” the strong public services “are the way to help drive and facilitate growth”.

He said: “I think it is really heartening to see that change of tone and approach that we’re already seeing, I think stronger relationships based on mutual respect with devolution to local areas, and longer term planning horizons has to be good.

“I think it’s good recognition already that public services are not solely what gets funded if there is economic growth, but strong public services, strong local places, are the way to help drive and facilitate growth.”


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