Accountants a ‘must’ for successful public sector reforms

18 Jan 12
Accountants have a vital role to play in the government’s ‘marketisation’ reforms of public services, a senior council leader has said.

By Richard Johnstone | 18 January 2012

Accountants have a vital role to play in the government’s ‘marketisation’ reforms of public services, a senior council leader has said.

Speaking at the relaunch of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies yesterday, Westminster City Council chief executive Michael More said that the government’s plans for public sector reform were ‘quite profound and, in many cases, uncertain’.

Moves to introduce more competition into the provision of public services, outlined by Prime Minister David Cameron last year, could become ‘messy’, he warned. But they will ‘clearly’ need accountants to be closely involved, he said.

He said: ‘There must be a senior financial role to shape those [reforms] appropriately. I think what we’re going to see is the increasing marketisation of the public sector, which I think is a good thing. It will instill certain kinds of commercial disciplines that I think are appropriate.

‘[It] will be good for the public sector in terms of return on investment, knowledge of price, and evaluation and competitiveness.’

He said that in this ‘move away from monolithic suppliers’ of public services, an accountant’s first role would be to ‘ensure that the new forms of organisation are properly set up’.

They must also make sure that the necessary change management procedures are in place, and develop the ‘investment discipline, capacity and confidence’ of those working in the new environment.

‘None of those are easy tasks,’ he said.

Also speaking at the event was Douglas McWilliams, the chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

He told delegates that the world was going through ‘the biggest ever economic change’, which he said was ‘bound to be disruptive, and is disruptive’ to growth.

2012 is likely to be a ‘down year’ in the economic cycle, he warned, with ‘not much’ growth in either the UK or the eurozone.

The event, ‘Accountants for growth’, was held to mark the relaunch of the CCAB, the professional body for the accountancy profession, following the withdrawal of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants last year. The CCAB now has five members: CIPFA; the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland; and Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Also speaking at the event were Richard Carter, director of the business environment at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Liberal Democrat MP and qualified chartered accountant Nigel Mills.


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