Herculean: When Richard Ennis ACMA Arrived at the London Borough of Lambeth, His Mission to Balance Its Books Was the Accounting Equivalent of Mucking out the Stygian Stables. Camilla Berens Finds out How He Reversed More Than Two Decades of Financial Mismanagement at the Council within Two Years

By Berens, Camilla | Financial Management (UK), May 2005 | Go to article overview

Herculean: When Richard Ennis ACMA Arrived at the London Borough of Lambeth, His Mission to Balance Its Books Was the Accounting Equivalent of Mucking out the Stygian Stables. Camilla Berens Finds out How He Reversed More Than Two Decades of Financial Mismanagement at the Council within Two Years


Berens, Camilla, Financial Management (UK)


Career challenges come in several different forms. Many people want to live up to their employer's expectations and climb the corporate ladder. Alternatively, there's the challenge of moving to a new employer with a whole new culture to absorb and, ideally, enhance. Then there's the type of challenge that Richard Ennis accepted. If he'd sat tight, he could now be in charge of the finances of one of the UK's most prestigious local authorities with all the benefits of a well-resourced and highly efficient administration. But in March 2003 he walked away from his job as assistant director of finance at Westminster City Council to work with one of the most notorious local authorities ever to have hit the headlines.

Westminster's own history is not entirely free of controversy, but its problems are mere hiccups compared with the political machinations, fraud and incompetence that have blighted the reputation of its neighbour, the London Borough of Lambeth. To be fair, by the time Ennis crossed the Thames to become its executive director of finance, efforts were already being made to drag Lambeth out of the mire, both internally and under the guidance of a monitoring board set up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. But, although the executive will was there, attempts to breathe new life into the council's services were being hindered by its 20-year legacy of mismanagement.

When Ennis moved south of the river it must have felt more like a different continent. Since the mid-eighties Lambeth council had become a byword for failure in the public sector and, from the tabloid press's perspective, the gold standard for looniness. When Margaret Thatcher became prime minster in 1979, the council had been a Labour stronghold. As her Tory government turned its attention to local authority reform, Lambeth dug in for a protracted campaign of trench warfare. A key flashpoint came in 1986 when the council became a major pocket of resistance against the government's controversial poll tax. After refusing to set a rate within the government's guidelines, council leader "Red" Ted Knight was eventually banned from holding public office and the borough was left facing huge surcharges and legal costs.

The council's defiant stance might have won more support if it hadn't been failing its own community at almost every level. By the mid-nineties rent and tax arrears had reached more than 200m [pounds sterling] and fraud was rife. One investigation estimated that 500 council officers were illegally claiming housing benefit. Another revealed that subcontractors were using the borough as a cash cow. One firm was found to have charged more than 70,000 [pounds sterling] to replace two gas fires in a pensioner's flat, while more than a million bricks--enough to build 2,000 homes--were stolen from council depots. Behind the political posturing, the borough was blighted by soaring unemployment and crime rates, neglected housing and underperforming schools. By 1995 the situation had got so bad that council leaders felt they had no option but to open Pandora's box. They commissioned Elizabeth Appleby QC to take a long, hard look at the state Lambeth was in.

It was no great surprise when she summed it up as "an appalling mess". Council leaders had long blamed the council's poor performance on a lack of funding from central government, but Appleby pointed the finger at local mismanagement. In the decade since her report was published, successive chief executives tried to rebuild Lambeth's rickety infrastructure. By Ennis's arrival in 2003, it was certainly leaner and cleaner, but poor financial stewardship was still a major problem.

Ennis's CV belies both his talent and his toughness. He cut his teeth with the Post Office and later with Slough Unitary Council. But it was clear that he had an ambitious streak and a thirst for new challenges that ultimately put him on the spot. On the same day he was offered the position at Lambeth, his boss at Westminster resigned. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Herculean: When Richard Ennis ACMA Arrived at the London Borough of Lambeth, His Mission to Balance Its Books Was the Accounting Equivalent of Mucking out the Stygian Stables. Camilla Berens Finds out How He Reversed More Than Two Decades of Financial Mismanagement at the Council within Two Years
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.