Innovation vital to meet public sector challenges, says CIPFA president

8 Jul 15
CIPFA members need to innovate in order to face up to unprecedented economic and policy challenges, incoming president John Matheson told the annual conference.
John Matheson

John Matheson said financial managers needed to develop new ideas and innovative responses to emerging policy challanges


In his opening address this morning, Matheson, who is the Scottish Government’s director of health finance, e-health and analytics, highlighted that recent events in the eurozone were keeping everyone second-guessing when the next downturn or crisis in the economy would be.

The ageing population, heightened terrorism and cyber crime risks, and diminishing levels of public trust in government institution were also emerging issues that needed to be faced up to.

“In the light of this risk, much of which is known and certain, as public servants and especially financial managers we must focus on developing new ideas and innovative responses to meet these challenges, and mitigate risk… Not at some point in the future, but now.”

The CIPFA conference, he said, would be hearing from many public service innovators from across the UK.

Elsewhere in his speech, Matheson stressed the need to focus on health rather than illness and the need to take a “whole-systems” approach.

“If we are to avoid pumping ever-greater quantities of our scarce public resources into ever-more costly remedial care, it is essential we adopt an approach which puts equal emphasis on health promotion and health improvement not just from within the health budget but also from investing in services such as housing, education and opportunities for employment and justice,” the president told delegates.

He concluded by noting the rising age profile of CIPFA members and the need to ensure the profession remained attractive to younger people. Skills such as big data interpretation and analytics for modeling service design were becoming increasingly important.

“We must make [the next few years] an absolute priority to encourage in the future generation and demonstrate ourselves a sense of energy, resilience and optimism,” Matheson said.

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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