Magazine article Public Finance

Fighting Talk

Magazine article Public Finance

Fighting Talk

Article excerpt

James Strachan certainly didn't pull any punches when he addressed CIPFA's annual conference this week in Manchester.

The combative chair of the Audit Commission warmed up by urging finance managers in the health service to 'raise their game. While NHS finances overall might not be facing meltdown, Strachan warned of stark' examples where individual health bodies have significant deficits.

But it was local government that took the body blows. Why is it he asked, that the private sector can produce audited figures within weeks of their year-end, but councils take months? And why do most authorities only produce a balance sheet at the year-end, why do they not have audit committees and why do they not publish an annual report?

It was a sustained and unexpected attack on people who, on the whole, are trying to do a good job in difficult circumstances. The audience took it on the chin, but they were entitled to feel somewhat bruised.

Yes, the role of public sector finance managers is changing. And yes, the introduction of 'market lubricants' into the public sector requires a different type of financial information.

But councils are not the same as private companies. …

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